Pinpointing the highest-paid positions in the restaurant industry isn't easy. Salaries typically depend on the overall success of the business, which can vary significantly. A restaurant's location, customer base and popularity are among the most influential factors. Usually, the highest-paying jobs are in successful, upscale restaurants in the wealthiest neighborhoods.
Executive or Head Chef
A head chef is in charge of directing staff and participating in meal preparation, but he's still a restaurant employee. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, executive chefs earned a median annual income of $46,570, as of May 2012. New York was the top-paying state, at an average $59,730 per year. Those employed by the federal executive branch received an average yearly salary of $65,550.
Pastry and Sous Chefs
Pastry and sous chefs usually work in fine-dining establishments, though their salaries vary. Pastry chefs generate the greatest earnings in private clubs and organizations, making anywhere between $33,000 and $70,000 per year. Sous chefs start off at around $33,088 annually, but expertise or a different employer could result in a salary of up to $111,020 each year.
Wine stewards usually work in hotel dining rooms or high-end restaurants, representing and serving wine, spirits and other alcoholic beverages. These positions make over $30,000 each year and may receive tips. Experts gain recognition by taking sommelier courses and receiving certification. Attaining master sommelier status -- only 211 had that credential, as of 2011 -- can lead to salaries of $160,000 or more per year.
Along with location and business impacts, a bartender's personality and skill can greatly increase his income. Bartenders earn an hourly rate that typically ranges from $7.60 to $15.14, plus tips. The BLS reported Hawaii as the top-paying state for bartenders, who earned an average annual salary of $33,190. Employer and location can make all the difference; the "Daily Meal" noted that bartenders in the Plaza's Oak Bar in New York can earn $70,000 per year.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 (Chefs and Head Cooks)
- The Daily Meal: Highest Paying Restaurant Jobs Slideshow (Pastry Chef)
- Court of Master Sommeliers: About the Court of Master Sommeliers
- The Daily Meal: Highest Paying Restaurant Jobs Slideshow (Sommelier)
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 (Bartenders)
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images