Fast-food jobs are one of the most popular among U.S. workers, with more than 4.5 million people working for a fast-food restaurant in 2021.
Many of these jobs are entry-level positions, meaning no prior experience or education is typically required to land a fast-food job.
With such a huge number of applicants for these roles, you may be wondering:
How much can I earn working in a fast-food restaurant?
Though the starting rate at many establishments is around $7.50, some offer much more than this.
So, what are the highest-paying fast-food jobs?
Let’s find out.
Jobs in fast-food chains are fast-paced, systematic, and process-driven.
To be successful in a fast-food restaurant, you’ll need to be able to follow instructions accurately and fit within an established hierarchy (there are usually layers of supervisors and managers).
One of the greatest benefits of working in the fast-food industry is the huge opportunity available when it comes to finding a new job.
For example, if you have experience as a crew member at McDonald’s, then you shouldn’t have too much of an issue finding a new job at Burger King, KFC, or Dunkin' Donuts.
There are three main kinds of entry-level roles at fast-food companies:
Team member is the most common role. In this position, you’ll handle a number of duties, such as customer service, operating the cash register, cleaning, and maybe some food preparation depending on the company (at Subway, for example, you'll help make sandwiches).
As a cook, you’ll be preparing meals for customers full-time, and as a delivery driver, you’ll be delivering that food to customers’ homes.
From there, hard-working and high-performing food service workers can move into management positions.
When you work in the fast-food industry, you can work your way into positions like:
Shift manager or duty manager
Committed fast-food workers can have a long career in the industry, progressing toward the GM job title and salary (more on that later).
Whether you’re already a part of the workforce and looking for a career change, or you’re a high-school student wondering what job you can get at 16 years old, you’re bound to find something for you in our list of highest-paying fast-food jobs.
Let’s look at nine companies that pay their employees well.
McDonald’s pays well over minimum wage, with the average hourly wage for fast-food workers being $9.
With more than 13,000 sites in the U.S., there are many employment opportunities at McDonald’s, and managers earn upwards of $12 an hour.
In-N-Out Burger pays the highest average hourly wage of all fast-food joints, with customer service associates earning an average of $17 an hour and top earners making $24 an hour.
This is an established company with more than 70 years in the game and over 280 stores.
Chick-fil-A is another popular fast food establishment that pays well. They pay an average of $9 an hour, though team leaders can make closer to $15 an hour.
Like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, Five Guys pays an average of $9 an hour to their fast-food workers. You can earn a couple of bucks more by becoming a line cook or team leader here.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries is a fast-growing chain with more than 1,300 stores in the U.S.
Cashiers, fast-food workers, cooks, and crew leaders all earn an average of $9 an hour at Wendy's, with assistant managers earning as much as $17 an hour.
Panda Express is one of the highest-paying fast-food restaurants around.
Here’s what their average hourly rates look like:
Counter clerk: $12
Food counter worker: $11
Restaurant assistant manager: $15
If burgers and fries aren’t really your thing, then you might enjoy a fast-food job at Panera Bread.
Cashiers here earn $10 an hour, with bakers hitting $13 and restaurant assistant managers making as much as $20 an hour.
And with 2,160 locations in the U.S., you’ll likely find job openings at a store near you.
Chipotle is another great place to work, and it’s one of the highest-paying fast-food places around.
Food service manager: $14
Crew leader: $11
The last of our highest-paying fast-food restaurants is the pizza giant Domino’s.
At Domino's, delivery drivers and customer service representatives earn an average of $9 an hour, with the highest-paid managers making as much as $19 hourly.
If you have a car and a license, getting a job as a delivery driver at Domino’s is fairly easy, and with over 6,000 U.S. locations, you likely won’t have to drive far to get to work!
The highest-paying fast-food jobs are definitely managerial roles.
For example, the highest-paid fast-food manager at In-N-Out Burger earns $160,000 a year, nearly four times as much as the average salary of $43,000 for fast-food managers.
Your years of experience are a major factor in determining your salary, with more experienced managers typically earning the most.
So, which restaurant sounds like it would be a good fit for you?
Wendy’s? Panda Express? Panera Bread?
Regardless of your choice, you’ll be in good hands, with a long career ahead of you if you’re willing to put in the time and commitment.
Ready to get started? Check out the Jobcase job board for vacancies.