These Are The Best Fast-Food Chains To Work For

Despite society’s ever-increasing fascination with health, fast food holds a special place in many of our hearts. While fast food is distinguished by its low cost, not all companies pay their employees minimum wage. For example, In-N-Out serves up the best pay rate, but Chipotle is the king when it comes to benefits. By the same token, Noodles & Company offers a lengthy, paid maternity leave and McDonald’s helps workers get an education. Read on to see what distinguishes these fast-food restaurants from the rest.

In-N-Out Pays Way Above The Industry Average

An In-N-Out worker holds a cheeseburger.
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for John Varvatos
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for John Varvatos

In-N-Out has become known for its fast cooking times without the sacrifice of quality. How they manage to pull this off has everything to do with their staff, so it’s not surprising that they are one of, if not the, highest paying fast-food places in America.

According to MarketWatch, their starting wages are $12-$17 hourly. They also state that the average salary for In-N-Out managers is a whopping $160,000! According to Glassdoor, assistant managers can expect to make around $70,000 a year, and cooks typically earn $15 hourly.

Taco Bell Is Upping Manager Salaries

A Taco Bell worker hands beverages to guests.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Taco Bell has faced some competition since its “Quiero Taco Bell” days. With Del Taco popping up on every street corner, the Mexican fast-food chain has had to watch its back. This may be why Taco Bell will be upping manager salaries to $100,000 at some locations, according to MarketWatch.

Equally impressive is that Glassdoor reports their Assistant Manager earns an average of $58,000 a year, the salary some General Managers make at other chains. Crew members can expect $9 hourly, which is a modest rate but also typical for a fast-food chain.

Starbucks Gives Paid Time Off To Part-Timers

A starbucks barista prepares a drink.
Antonia Märzhäuser/picture alliance via Getty Images
Antonia Märzhäuser/picture alliance via Getty Images

With all of the success Starbucks has achieved over the years, you’d expect that their workers would be reaping some of those financial benefits. While their wages aren’t as sky-high as In-N-Out’s, Starbucks does offer $11 an hour to baristas and $13 to shift leads, according to Glassdoor.

Managerial positions fall on the lower end of the average, earning about $55,000 a year. Where the company really shines is in its benefits, offering health care and paid time off to part-time workers who hit just 20 hours a week. This perk is almost unheard of in the industry.

Chipotle Is All About Benefits

Employees work in an assembly line at Chipotle.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Chipotle is one of the few spots that applied the assembly line technique to Mexican cuisine, offering a fast, fresh, and customized option. Cooks and crew members can expect to earn $10 to $11 an hour. On top of that, this is another one of the few places to offer benefits to part-time employees who work 15 hours or more.

Assistant managers, referred to by the company as Apprentices, make an average of $41,000 and general managers average a $54,000 salary. All salaried positions are also offered pet insurance, adoption assistance, and a two-month sabbatical after ten years!

Farmer Boys Pays Above Average

A Farmer Boys employee sets down food in front of a guest.
Farmer Boys/Youtube
Farmer Boys/Youtube

Farmer Boys may not be the first fast-food chain that comes to mind, but they have been around since the ’80s. The burger joint prides itself on quickly providing farm-fresh food at an affordable cost. Most impressive is their pay rate, which averages $11 an hour for crew members, according to Glassdoor.

General manager salaries earn about $71,000, falling on the higher end of the industry average. Assistant managers can expect to make about $53,000 a year, a competitive rate for the industry. Depending on the position, cooks are looking at about $11 to $16 an hour.

Chick-fil-A Is Upping Its Hourly

Chick-fil-A
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Following in In-N-Out’s footsteps, Chick-fil-A is also looking to retain workers by providing higher wages. According to The Washington Post, the chain raised its hourly rate to $17-$18 at a Sacramento location in 2018.

While the wage sounds promising at first, Glassdoor still reports that crew members make closer to $9-$10 in most locations. It also states that General Managers make about $53,000 per year. So, there’s good news for Chick-fil-A wages, but it may be a slow and gradual process that’s heavily reliant on location.

The Habit Offers Solid Compensation

The Habit sign is mounted above the restaurant.
George Rose/Getty Images
George Rose/Getty Images

The Habit is a fast-food chain that feels more like a hybrid. Its quality of food and atmosphere make it a top pick for lunch breaks, and it shows in their wages. According to Glassdoor, cashiers can expect to make about $11 an hour here, while cooks average $12.

An assistant manager is reported to earn $40k-$50k per year, which is a generous average for the industry. General managers come in at about $60,000 a year, falling right into the industry average.

El Pollo Loco Has Great Hourly Wages

A gray El Pollo Loco building is pictured.
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

The home of the crazy chicken is an ideal fast-food spot for large parties of people, offering individual and group options. As for wages, their hourly employees fall higher on the industry average than managers do.

According to Glassdoor, El Pollo Loco cashiers earn $10-$11 an hour, cooks earn $11-$12 an hour, and shift leads are at about $13 an hour. Assistant managers average $33,000 a year and general managers come in around $51,000.

Blaze Pizza Pays More Than Delivery Chains

A worker prepares a pizza at Blaze Pizza.
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Vince Talotta/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Pizza assembly lines have exploded in the past decade, offering customized options like never before. Best of all, employees at these pizza joints typically earn more than they would at delivery chains like Domino’s or Pizza Hut.

Rising to the top of the trend is Blaze Pizza, which offers $11 an hour to team members as well as half-priced pizza. Glassdoor reports that managerial positions average at around $50,000 a year.

Raising Cane’s Offers Room To Grow

A Raising Cane's building is pictured at sunset.
@Raising_Canes/Twitter
@Raising_Canes/Twitter

Sometimes referred to as the chicken-version of In-N-Out, Raising Cane’s offers a simple menu and fair pricing. General managers are in a better financial position than at some of the other spots we’ve seen so far, earning an average of $70,000 a year, according to Glassdoor.

Its workers can expect about $9 an hour, but that bumps up to $10 for certified trainers and $14 for shift leads. Cooks are also in the $9-$10 hourly range.

Panda Express Is Average But Stable

The owners of Panda Express enjoy a meal.
Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images
Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Meet Andrew and Peggy Cherng, the couple who founded Panda Express in 1983. The Chinese fast-food chain has since become one of the more well-known names in the country, making the happy couple billionaires. Their fortune put them in a stable position to offer wages that fall within the industry average.

According to Glassdoor, cashiers can expect a $10 hourly wage. Cooks and leads make an average of $12 an hour, and assistant managers make around $34,000 a year. General managers reportedly earn $56,000 a year on average.

Noodles & Company Offers Maternity Leave

A cook mixes pasta in a skillet at Noodles and Company.
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Noodles & Company is a fast-food spot that offers quality food for a low cost and short wait time. As one employee put it on Glassdoor, they are “fast dining.” Regardless, their wages certainly fall into the fast-food category. Team members and cooks make $10 an hour on average.

General managers have an average salary of $51,000. Shift managers earn around a $30,000 salary, while assistant general managers typically bring in $44,000 a year. One of the more unique perks for full-time workers is their six-week-long paid maternity leave, which is a hot commodity across industries in America.

Panera Bread Offers The Most To Assistant Managers

A Panera Bread sign is pictured among buildings in city.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Scott Olson/Getty Images

While Panera Bread is technically fast-food, its offerings are far from the greasy, deep-fried options you’d expect. Regarding employee compensation, they are about average. Cashiers and cooks make $9-$10 hourly, according to Glassdoor. General managers are reported to earn $54,000 a year.

One of their more lucrative positions seems to be the assistant manager. Reportedly these workers earn around $43,000 a year, about 10k more than the lower salaries we’ve seen for this position. Since they only offer benefits to full-time workers, this seems to be the golden position at this chain.

Smashburger Has A Great 401K

Actor Dean McDermott prepares burgers alongside the founder of Smashburger.
Jerod Harris/WireImage/Getty Images
Jerod Harris/WireImage/Getty Images

One of the newer chains to spread across the United States, Smashburger was founded in Colorado in 2007. Considering how many successful burger chains are in that part of the country, it was a bold move that proved worth it thanks to the restaurant’s unique recipes.

Cashiers and cooks earn around $10 an hour, which is bumped up to $12 for shift leads. Assistant managers earn an average salary of $42,000, and general managers earn about $51,000 a year. Employees on Glassdoor seemed most enthused about the company’s 401K, which offers a 6% match.

Wendy’s Gives An Employee Discount

Women walk past a Wendy's.
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

With how inexpensive Wendy’s already is, you wouldn’t expect that the company could afford to further discount their food. Nevertheless, employees get a 50% discount, and sometimes free Frostys.

Crew members and cooks earn a solid $9 an hour. The general manager makes $49,000 a year on average, which is just below the industry standard. Assistant managers typically earn $37,000 a year. All in all, it isn’t the greatest of wages, nor is it the worst.

McDonald’s Has Tuition Assistance

A McDonald's cashier takes an order.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

McDonald’s is one of the most successful fast-food chains around, having permeated most of the world. While its compensation doesn’t exactly reflect its massive success, it does meet the industry standard.

McDonald’s pay rates are almost identical to Wendy’s: crew members and cooks an average of $9 an hour; their general manager earns about $50,000 a year; and their assistant manager salary is averaged at $36,000. Unlike Wendy’s, they have a program to help students earn their high school diploma, along with tuition assistance.

Jamba Juice Has A Mobile Phone Discount

Teens dressed like fruit drive a Jamba Juice car.
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Jamba Juice has come to dominate the smoothie industry despite its many competitors. Attracting many adolescent workers, the company decided to add in a perk that any teen could appreciate: mobile phone discounts.

Additionally, their wages are slightly higher than some of the other chains we’ve seen, offering $10 hourly to team members. Shift leads earn $12 an hour and general managers bring in about $52,000 a year, according to Glassdoor. Workers also get 50% off their order with a $20 limit per day.

Five Guys Offers Free Food

Cooks prepare burgers at Five Guys.
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Five Guys is one of the pricier burger chains in the fast-food industry, which is a testament to how delicious their food is. That’s why one of the best employee perks at this restaurant is that workers get a free meal during their shifts.

Despite their higher quality, wages are almost identical to that of McDonald’s and Wendy’s. General manager salaries are typically $51,000 and assistant managers earn an average of $38,000 per year. Crew members and cooks earn $9 an hour on average.

Carl’s Jr Has A Better Rate Hourly Than Its Competitors

A Carl's Jr building is pictured at an angel.
Dave Rowland/Getty Images
Dave Rowland/Getty Images

Carl’s Jr is a fast-food spot that’s gone far beyond just burgers and fries, offering unique fan faves like fried zucchini, a fish sandwich, and the green burrito. Compared to some of their top competitors– like Burger King and McDonald’s– they also have better hourly wages.

On average, crew members earn $10 an hour while line cooks earn about $11 hourly. The general manager salary is on par with its competitors, averaging $51,000 a year.

Del Taco Pays Hourly Employees The Best

A Del Taco building promotes the return of their carnitas.
Getty Images
Getty Images

Del Taco has risen to such prominence that their locations are almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks. The Mexican-American cuisine combines the best of two worlds at an extremely affordable cost. Workers get to enjoy an additional discount off the already inexpensive food.

Cashiers and cooks make $10 an hour on average, according to Glassdoor. The assistant manager salary is on the lower side at $31,000 a year, as is the general manager position which is estimated at $48,000 a year.