Which Fast-Food Restaurant Pays the Most in 2022?

Many people without any prior experience decide to find their first employment in a fast-food restaurant. The reasons behind this are numerous:

  • They always hire
  • They don’t ask for previous work experience (for entry-level jobs)
  • They even hire minors (in some positions)

Still, if you find anyone willing to hire you, this doesn’t mean they’ll match your desired wage.

With that in mind, which fast-food restaurant pays the most?

Let’s see what wages some famous fast-food restaurants offer for entry-level jobs.

Which Restaurants Pay the Most?

There are several problems with this question, which makes giving a straight answer all the more difficult.

First of all, the majority of chains in the fast-food industry operate on a franchise system. Among other things, this means that different franchises pay differently, depending on the state.

Second, most fast-food restaurants employ people in many different positions. Now, while it’s clear you won’t compare a McDonald’s restaurant manager to a Subway sandwich maker, sometimes, it’s difficult to find comparable positions.

Third, for the sake of this comparison and finding what is the best fast-food place to work at, we’ll pick entry-level jobs in the biggest fast-food chains. After all, most employees start working in such positions, which makes them the most relevant.

Lastly, we’ll use the nationwide average for comparison. Making comparisons between one restaurant’s average in Texas and another restaurant’s average in Florida simply wouldn’t be fair.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

Which Restaurants Pay the Most Hourly for an Entry-level Job?

When it comes to the major names in the industry, the average entry-level hourly pay is:

  • Burger King: $9.86 per hour.
  • Subway: $11.52 per hour.
  • McDonald’s: $12.33 per hour.
  • Wendy’s: $12.38 per hour.
  • Dunkin Donuts: $12.54 per hour.
  • Chick-fil-A: $12.92 per hour.
  • Chipotle: $14.74 per hour.

Note: The averages above are based on the most common entry-level positions at each of the restaurants.

As you can see, the average hourly wage at most of these restaurants is between $12 and $13 per hour. Those that pay substantially less on average (like Burger King) and more on average (like Chipotle) are quite rare.

In other words, Chipotle is the highest-paying fast-food restaurant, at least according to most indicators.

Now, remember that regional differences are vast, and the figures above are a national average (based on thousands of employee reviews). Because of this, we will only focus on nationwide comparisons.

Now, let’s make a more elaborate comparison of average entry-level pay at the restaurants mentioned above.

DISCLAIMER: 

For our calculations, we’re using rough estimates based on hourly averages, assuming 260 working days over 52 weeks. We’re also not counting holidays and vacation days, seeing as how different companies (and even franchises) have different stances on this subject.

Additionally, the averages in this article don’t refer to take-home wages. For such calculations, you can use a take-home pay calculator.

How much do fast-food restaurants pay on average for entry-level jobs?

Using the national pay averages mentioned above, let’s see how much entry-level employees at these restaurants can expect to earn daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.

Burger King

On average, Burger King pays $9.86 per hour. This is also roughly:

  • $78.88 daily
  • $394 weekly
  • $789 bi-weekly
  • $1,709 monthly
  • $20,509 yearly

This marks Burger King as one of the lowest-paying employers in the fast-food industry and, honestly, quite low on the list of restaurants that pay well.

Subway

The average hourly wage in Subway in 2022 is roughly $11.52 per hour. Approximately this is:

  • $92.16 daily
  • $461 weekly
  • $922 bi-weekly
  • $1,997 monthly
  • $23,962 yearly

While not the lowest-paying fast-food restaurant, Subway is clearly near the bottom of the list.

McDonald’s

Fast-food giant McDonald’s pays $12.33 per hour. This is:

  • $98.64 daily
  • $493 weekly
  • $986 bi-weekly
  • $2,137 monthly
  • $25,646 yearly

Overall, while the differences between states and franchises may greatly deviate, this nationwide comparison is more than enough to indicate the average wage of an entry-level McDonald’s employee.

Wendy’s

The average pay for an entry-level position at Wendy’s is approximately $12.38 per hour. This also comes down to:

  • $99.04 daily
  • $495 weekly
  • $990 bi-weekly
  • $2,146 monthly
  • $25,750 yearly

As you can see, Wendy’s entry-level positions are somewhere in the middle on the list of the best-paying fast-food jobs.

Dunkin Donuts

The hourly salary for an entry-level job at Dunkin Donuts is $12.54. This amounts to:

  • $100.32 daily
  • $502 weekly
  • $1,003 bi-weekly
  • $2,174 monthly
  • $26,083 yearly
Chick-fil-A

Someone just starting at Chick-fil-A is likely to make $12.92 per hour. This comes down to:

  • $103.36 daily
  • $517 weekly
  • $1,034 bi-weekly
  • $2,239 monthly
  • $26,874 yearly

Overall, Chick-fil-A does tend to pay somewhat more on average than most of its competitors.

Chipotle

When it comes down to which fast-food restaurant pays the most, with $14.74 per hour. Chipotle is a clear winner. This wage approximately comes down to:

  • $117.92 daily
  • $590 weekly
  • $1,179 bi-weekly
  • $2,555 monthly
  • $30,659 yearly

What’s evident from these national pay averages is that Chipotle seems to offer the highest-paying fast-food jobs. It is an undisputed leader in this category.

What is the highest-paying job in a restaurant?

In a traditional restaurant, an executive chef would probably be the highest-paid job. However, things don’t function the same way in fast-food restaurants. Positions like executive chef, sommelier, and sous chef aren’t a part of a fast-food restaurant/venue.

In a fast-food restaurant, the highest-paid positions are usually in the administration. Sadly, upward mobility is not always how one gets there (stories of a barista-turned-general-manager are not as common as you think).

What are some of the highest-paying fast-food jobs?

The pay differences here can be quite drastic between restaurants. For instance, according to some reviews, this is how much general managers at these restaurants make on average:

And yet, if you take the average pay of a regional manager at Subway (around $24 per hour), this is still less than what a general manager makes at Chipotle.

The bottom line is — who you work for matters as much as the state you work in and the position you hold.

Which Fast-Food Restaurants Offer the Best Employee Benefits?

The topic of fast-food restaurant benefits is a complicated and controversial one. Still, other than just looking for high-paying fast-food jobs, this too is something that the majority of potential employees are interested in.

The first main problem with comparisons is that not all benefits in all franchises are available to all the positions. For instance, while a fast-food restaurant may provide full health and dental insurance, as well as 401(k), it may be available only to the administration.

Once again, in terms of employee inclusivity, Chipotle is well ahead of its competition. It offers:

  • Medical, dental, and vision insurance
  • A variety of bonuses (daily, performance, quarterly, yearly)
  • Employee discounts
  • One free meal per day
  • Paid time off (after one year on the job)
  • 401(k)
  • Tuition assistance (for students)

For everyone in their employ!

One thing worth pointing out is that the company only offers maternity leave for those on a fixed salary.

Still, this is a common practice in the industry. There aren’t a lot of restaurants/franchises that have a more inclusive maternity leave package.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Work at a Fast-Food Restaurant?

This mostly depends on the restaurant and the state in question. In states like Montana, it’s legal for 14-year-olds to seek employment in some fields. However, this is not the case nationwide.

The vast majority of restaurants don’t hire employees younger than 16. Even then, they usually need a special parental permit.

Although some restaurants pay minors less, most will pay the standard hourly wage. Still, even in the best-paying restaurants, minors are bound to make less than their older counterparts. There are two main reasons for this:

  • The number of hours that a minor can work at a restaurant is limited (sometimes as little as three hours per day). This means that while the hourly wage may hold up, the daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and annual wage will not.
  • Minors cannot hold managerial positions and are, almost exclusively, not allowed to work in posts deemed as risky.

With these two restrictions, it’s quite obvious why a minor will end up making less.

What Are the Best Fast-food Restaurants to Work At?

When looking for a job, people mostly focus on their potential hourly wage. However, while this is important, other factors aren’t to be overlooked.

When researching future employers, it’s also important to consider the benefits and general treatment of employees. Sadly, these factors aren’t uniform and depend on the local management and crew.

Before further discussing the best fast-food places to work at, we have to make a disclaimer to avoid some misunderstandings. We won’t give any definitive titles and state that certain restaurants are the best.

Why? Well, simply because while they may have the best average wages or benefits nationwide, the reality might be different from one franchise to another.

In other words, the category of the best fast-food places to work at remains highly subjective and contextual.

Objectively speaking, one could argue that Chipotle pays the most per hour and offers the best benefits. However, this is not a guarantee that this will be the best place to work at.

Other than Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and Dunkin Donuts are also known for higher-than-average wages, decent benefits, and slightly higher employee salary satisfaction than the rest of the industry. However, employee reviews don’t always reflect the real picture of what working at these restaurants actually looks and feels like.

Which Sit-down Restaurants Pay the Most?

The sit-down restaurant is, on its own, a broad term. Be that as it may, it’s most commonly used in opposition to a fast-food restaurant.

Even sit-down restaurants have subcategories. For instance, a restaurant can be:

  • Fine dining
  • Casual dining
  • Family style
  • Contemporary casual

One thing worth pointing out is that sit-down restaurants don’t pay more by default (although there are more opportunities for upward mobility).

The starting position as a dishwasher will pay between $8 and $11 per hour, which is comparable to a fast-food restaurant entry-level job. In fact, some of the highest paying restaurants will pay more even for an entry-level position.

Still, in some of the largest ‘sit-down’ restaurant chains, entry-level jobs are paid slightly better than the fast-food average. For instance, this is how much some of them approximately pay dishwashers:

  • Outback Steakhouse: $13.99 per hour.
  • Red Lobster: $13.82 per hour.
  • Red Robin: $13.62 per hour.
  • Longhorn Steakhouse: $15.05 per hour.

As you can see, the averages are slightly (or in some cases significantly) higher than those of fast-food restaurants. These just might be some of the best-paying entry-level jobs in food chains.

When it comes to the specific restaurant, on average, Longhorn Steakhouse seems to have the highest wages.

Wrap Up

With an average hourly pay of $14.74 for an entry-level job, Chipotle is head and shoulders above the rest of the industry. Compare this to the industry average of between $11 and $13 per hour, and you’ll see that this is quite the deviation.

The benefits at this restaurant are not always superior to those of their closest competitors, but they apply to all of their employees, which is already a huge boon.

When it comes to who is the best employer, this is quite subjective, contextual, and varies from one franchise to another (even within the same chain).

In the end, it all comes down to what you’re comparing. You won’t get the same results comparing the highest-paying fast-food manager jobs and the highest-paid entry-level positions.

Still, when making comparisons across the board, the chains that pay their servers, dishwashers, baristas, and crew members the most usually pay their managers more as well.

FAQ

Do sit-down restaurants pay their staff more?

While they do pay entry-level jobs slightly more, the differences are really not that significant. Still, some kitchen staff members in sit-down restaurants are paid more, such as sous chefs and executive chefs.

How old do you have to be to work at a fast-food restaurant?

To work at a fast-food restaurant, you need to be at least 16. While some states permit those aged 14 to work, most franchises and chains don’t employ people younger than 16.

Which fast-food restaurant pays the most?

When it comes to the average hourly pay for an entry-level position, Chipotle has the reputation of being the most generous employer. The average hourly wage for the role of a restaurant staff member (the most common entry-level position) is $14.74 per hour.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Content writer and amateur boxer. A few years ago, I dived into the financial world with an aim to help both heavyweight and lightweight investors make a knockout. I love to spend my free time watching movies and playing video games. Other than this, doing the best I can to support my kid in achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a Ninja Turtle.

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