It’s not unknown that salaries in the restaurant industry may not always be the best. In addition, working hours are often long, wearing on the body and eating up holidays. But why is it that some roles and responsibilities earn significantly more than others – even though the work can be equally demanding? Let’s find out here!

As a waiter in a restaurant, you often have to work hard. You have to keep track of new guests, know the menu by heart, pick up the dishes, take the food out and be pleasant for eleven hours straight – and sometimes it’s a long pan without a single break. Sitting down for a break or taking a walk is not on the map! Yet you earn less than the chef who stands in the kitchen and crosses asparagus, or the bartender who shakes drinks for a few hours Friday-Saturday. Why is that?

Roles with more responsibility bring higher pay

Many restaurants in Sweden are based on HRF (Hotel and Restaurant Union) and the recommended salaries. Working in Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö does not mean that you automatically have a higher basic salary. On the other hand, fine dining tends to be more prevalent in big cities – where restaurants with ‘finer’ roles (such as sous chef, bar manager or head chef) appear with higher frequency. Managerial roles like these are also often paid more than, say, the chef or bartender – for obvious reasons. More responsibility = higher pay!

Basic salary vs. OB vs. tips

The biggest pay gaps are often based on tips. In some places in big cities, tips can be higher than basic pay – so moving to a new job to increase your salary is not an uncommon decision in many cases. In addition to the basic salary and tips, the OB allowance is also a large part of the salary for many. The recommended OB allowance is just over SEK 22 per hour – a sum that often does not correspond to the effort and work required for evening and weekend jobs.

From 17 to 21 years, earnings increase most

Between the ages of 17 and 21, the biggest changes in pay occur in the restaurant industry – especially if you work in the service industry. This is mainly to do with the number of hours you’re actually allowed to work – and of course alcohol management. Here too, responsibility is the biggest influence on your salary. For example, if you’ve taken a training course in responsible alcohol management or become an alcohol manager in the restaurant, you’ll have a greater importance and role in the business – which often leads to a higher salary.

Read more about youth wages on the HRF website!

Education is more important than experience

But the biggest contributor to higher pay in the restaurant industry is not linked to education, experience, location or age. You may have worked as a waitress or chef in one place for 20 years and learned all about the clientele and the restaurant – but if your responsibilities haven’t expanded, your salary probably hasn’t either. Training is often a successful way to improve your salary. The restaurant and tourism programme in upper secondary school may be mainly about laying the foundations for the industry, while a later course may be about human resource management, service and customer care, entrepreneurship, business administration or similar.

Last but not least, the variation in wages in the restaurant sector is mostly due to negotiation. You should be able to justify and argue for a higher salary based on training, a new role or different and extended responsibilities.

Average salary restaurant staff 2021

  • Chef & Cold Cooker – ca: 26.000 SEK
  • Sous chef & chef de cuisine – ca: 32.000 SEK
  • Waitress/waitress and maître d’ – ca: 26.000 SEK
  • Restaurant maid/desk clerk – ca: 24.000 SEK

However, keep in mind that experience, education and where in the country you work play a role in your salary!