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Food Preparation Workers
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Description: what do they do?
Perform a variety of food preparation duties other than cooking, such as preparing cold foods and shellfish, slicing meat, and brewing coffee or tea.
Also known as:
Nutrition Aide, Deli Clerk (Delicatessen Clerk), Slicer, Dietary Aide, Food Service Worker, Pantry Cook, Diet Aide, Food Service Aide, Food Preparer, Dietary Assistant

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from an O*NET database. Learn more on the Help page.

Career video
    Transcript: Food preparation workers work in cafeterias and restaurants under the direction of cooks, chefs, and food service managers. They prepare cold foods, slice meat, peel and cut vegetables, brew coffee or tea, and more. When needed, they retrieve food, clean and put away equipment, and unload deliveries. They may also use kitchen equipment, such as dishwashers, blenders, slicers, or grinders. Some food preparation workers stock and operate soda machines, coffeemakers, and espresso machines. The work is often strenuous. Workers may stand for hours at a time cleaning or preparing ingredients. Some may be required to lift and carry heavy pots or supplies. In fast-paced kitchens, staff must work together to ensure dishes are prepared quickly and properly. Kitchens have many potential safety hazards and food preparation workers have a high rate of minor injuries. To reduce risks, workers often wear gloves, aprons, and nonslip shoes. About half of food preparation workers work part time early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holiday shifts are common. Those working in school cafeterias generally have more regular hours, with time off during school vacations. Seasonal employment is also available. Food preparation workers typically learn through on-the-job training that covers how to handle and prepare food, as well as basic sanitation and workplace safety regulations. No formal education or previous work experience is required.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are very likely in the future.

This occupation is:
  • Rapid Growth; Numerous Job Openings


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET Bright Outlook occupations, 2019. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
United States
842,100
2018 Employment
911,200
2028 Employment
8%
Percent change
158,500
Annual projected job openings

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2016 (for states) or 2018 (for the United States), the number expected to be employed in 2026 (for states) or 2028 (for the United States), and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions of unemployment rates and labor productivity growth rates.  While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central and each state's Labor Market Information office, 2016-26.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 2018-28.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Food Preparation Workers in United States
This graph displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
This chart displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
LocationUnited States
10%$18,220
25%$20,800
Median$24,800
75%$29,650
90%$35,500


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, May 2019 survey. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, Educational attainment for workers 25 years and older by detailed occupation, 2016–17.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Clean food preparation areas, facilities, or equipment.
  • Clean tableware.
  • Operate cash registers.
  • Process customer bills or payments.
  • Store supplies or goods in kitchens or storage areas.
  • Package food or supplies.
  • Arrange food for serving.
  • Assess equipment functioning.
  • Cook foods.
  • Record operational or production data.
  • Serve food or beverages.
  • Stock serving stations or dining areas with food or supplies.
  • Prepare foods for cooking or serving.
  • Move equipment, supplies or food to required locations.
  • Clean food service areas.
  • Cut cooked or raw foods.
  • Remove trash.
  • Measure ingredients.
  • Assist chefs or caterers with food or drink preparation.
  • Present food or beverage information or menus to customers.
  • Prepare hot or cold beverages.
  • Mix ingredients.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Interests
  • Conventional - Occupations related to Conventional interests frequently involve following set procedures and routines. They include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
  • Realistic - Occupations with Realistic interests frequently involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical tasks
  • Clean and sanitize work areas, equipment, utensils, dishes, or silverware.
  • Operate cash register, handle money, and give correct change.
  • Store food in designated containers and storage areas to prevent spoilage.
  • Portion and wrap the food, or place it directly on plates for service to patrons.
  • Take and record temperature of food and food storage areas, such as refrigerators and freezers.
  • Prepare a variety of foods, such as meats, vegetables, or desserts, according to customers' orders or supervisors' instructions, following approved procedures.
  • Keep records of the quantities of food used.
  • Place food trays over food warmers for immediate service, or store them in refrigerated storage cabinets.
  • Package take-out foods or serve food to customers.
  • Stock cupboards and refrigerators, and tend salad bars and buffet meals.
  • Wash, peel, and cut various foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to prepare for cooking or serving.
  • Carry food supplies, equipment, and utensils to and from storage and work areas.
  • Vacuum dining area and sweep and mop kitchen floor.
  • Cut, slice or grind meat, poultry, and seafood to prepare for cooking.
  • Remove trash and clean kitchen garbage containers.
  • Receive and store food supplies, equipment, and utensils in refrigerators, cupboards, and other storage areas.
  • Weigh or measure ingredients.
  • Assist cooks and kitchen staff with various tasks as needed, and provide cooks with needed items.
  • Assemble meal trays with foods in accordance with patients' diets.
  • Add cutlery, napkins, food, and other items to trays on assembly lines in hospitals, cafeterias, airline kitchens, and similar establishments.
  • Use manual or electric appliances to clean, peel, slice, and trim foods.
  • Distribute menus to hospital patients, collect diet sheets, and deliver food trays and snacks to nursing units or directly to patients.
  • Scrape leftovers from dishes into garbage containers.
  • Stir and strain soups and sauces.
  • Load dishes, glasses, and tableware into dishwashing machines.
  • Butcher and clean fowl, fish, poultry, and shellfish to prepare for cooking or serving.
  • Prepare and serve a variety of beverages such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks.
  • Make special dressings and sauces as condiments for sandwiches.
  • Mix ingredients for green salads, molded fruit salads, vegetable salads, and pasta salads.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.