Cafeteria workers prepare and serve food in a cafeteria setting. Most cafeteria workers are part-time servers, while others work a full-time schedule in elementary and secondary school settings or public cafeterias. Cafeteria workers usually work under general supervision and may have to report to a cafeteria manager or other management.
In general, cafeteria workers perform any duties assigned by the cafeteria manager. Duties include arranging food and beverages on steam tables, a la carte trays or mobile carts to make items available for consumers. Cafeteria workers serve consumers by the menu or personal preference. They clean utensils and cooking and storage equipment. Cafeteria workers also clean and sanitize serving areas each day. They must follow food preparation instructions and serve all food and beverages according to cafeteria safety and sanitary policies. Cafeteria workers might also work as cashiers. Cafeteria staff members work as a team, and each cafeteria worker is responsible for a cooperative working environment.
Cafeteria workers are high school graduates or hold an equivalent to a high school diploma. They are also required to have a food handler certification as determined by the individual state’s health department. If the worker performs duties for a school district or other government entity, a criminal background clearance along with fingerprinting is required.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cafeteria workers held 525,400 positions in 2008. These workers perform duties in restaurants, recreation establishments and educational services. Cafeteria workers are also found in nursing care facilities and civic and social organizations. Cafeteria jobs are numerous in larger cities and towns.
Cafeteria workers have knowledge of cooking large quantities of food. They also acquire the skills to work in all areas of the cafeteria or kitchen. They perform multiple duties at once. Other skills include being able to operate different types of cafeteria equipment and keep accurate records—this includes recipe and inventory records. Basic math skills come in handy as well. Workers in the cafeteria demonstrate sufficient customer skills to all cafeteria patrons. Cafeteria workers are also able to lift at least 50 lbs.
Salary and Occupational Outlook
BLS states, as of May 2008, an average cafeteria worker earns about $7.90 an hour, a little bit more than minimum wage. Wages range from $7.26 to $9.12 per hour. Overall, persons working in the food service industry will increase 10 percent by the year 2018. Growth is contributed to the increase in the general population.
2016 Salary Information for Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers
Food and beverage serving and related workers earned a median annual salary of $19,710 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, food and beverage serving and related workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $18,170, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $22,690, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 5,122,500 people were employed in the U.S. as food and beverage serving and related workers.