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The Best Restaurant Chains to Work For

The Best Casual Dining Jobs


Green jobs and health care positions may be the jobs of the future, but neither comes close to the levels of employment seen in the food services industry. Food preparation workers and waiters were found to be two of the occupations that employed the largest number of workers last year, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and unfortunately, these and other restaurant positions ranked among the worst paying jobs as well.

While working in a restaurant may not be an ideal job for someone aiming for a career in other industries, many of us have worked these jobs as either part-time or full-time employment to make ends meet in this tough economy. With that in mind, MainStreet partnered with Glassdoor.com, a job search engine, to find the best restaurant chains to work for.

Glassdoor asks current and former employees from a wide range of businesses to rate their experience by a number of criteria including work/life balance, compensation and benefits and the quality of management, and to rate the company overall from one to five (with five being the best.) Glassdoor used this data to find the 10 casual dining restaurants with the highest overall ratings, each of which have been reviewed by at least 20 employees. When possible, Glassdoor supplied data on average hourly wages for servers working there, which we used to break any ties.

It should be noted that none of these restaurant chains had an excellent rating (in the four to five range) that could compete with the quality of the work experience at many tech and financial services companies, which tend to get the highest ratings. That said, the employee reviews and ratings on Glassdoor provide a detailed snapshot of the pros and cons of working at each of these dining establishments, which could help inform the job seeker’s decision on where to work next.

Photo Credit: russelljsmith

10th Best Restaurant Job: Applebee's


Overall Rating: 3.1

As with many of the companies on this list, the employees at Applebee’s generally rank the company as being an “OK” place to work, neither “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the company nor on the opposite end of the spectrum as “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.” In their reviews, employees at this bar and grill note that it is easy to get hired, and the company has a decent work/life balance, but at the end of the day, the pay is lacking.

“[The] clients that come in only tip like $2 and $5 so you can work for 9 hours straight and only leave with $45 bucks a couple nights in a row,” a server wrote in one review. That’s particularly difficult to live on when the average hourly salary for a server without tips is just $5.82, according to Glassdoor data. For that reason, the company earned a low 2.8 employee rating for its compensation and benefits.

Photo Credit: stev.ie

9th Best Restaurant Job: Chili's


Overall Rating: 3.2

Dozens of current and former employees have praised Chili’s for being a place with flexible schedules, which makes it easier to juggle work with school or another part-time job. What’s more, servers seem generally satisfied with the tips they receive on top of the average hourly salary of $5, which according to one reviewer, “can potentially make you more money than working in sales, once you get the hang of it.” That said, several reviewers emphasize that working at Chili’s may be a good temporary job, but it shouldn’t be a career.

Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale

8th Best Restaurant Job: Red Robbin


Overall Rating: 3.2

This popular burger chain offers competitive pay for the casual dining industry, as servers get an average base salary of $6.40 per hour, plus tips, which several reviewers describe as being generous. Employees often praise the restaurants for having a “laid back” environment and management that is willing to be flexible with hours.

Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale

7th Best Restaurant Job: P.F. Chang's


Overall Rating: 3.3

P.F. Chang’s has the second-highest average salary for servers on the list, with waiters and waitresses earning an average of $7.69 before tips, and many note in their reviews that the higher cost of menu items at this chinese restaurant leads to better tips on top of the base salary. But while the money is good, several employees note in their reviews that the management is sometimes difficult to work with and fails to foster a team environment.

Photo Credit: el clinto

6th Best Restaurant Job: T.G.I. Friday's


Overall Rating: 3.3

Servers at T.G.I. Friday’s earn an average of $9.39 an hour, according to Glassdoor, making this the restaurant chain the best paying for waiters (not counting tips). On top of this, the company’s work/life balance rating is 3.5, as many employees praise the chain for allowing flexible schedules.

As one former employee writes in a review, “They will work around your schedule if you need time off and you can call out a lot. Just a really laid back place to work honestly.”

Photo Credit: ElvertBarnes

3rd Best Restaurant Job (Tie): Golden Corral


Overall Rating: 3.4

Golden Corral not only ranks among the top five companies overall, but according to Glassdoor, it ties for having the best work/life balance of any casual dining chain on the site. Reviewers also praise the family restaurant for its friendly environment and decent tips.

Photo Credit: rob_rob2001

3rd Best Restaurant Job (Tie): California Pizza Kitchen


Overall Rating: 3.4

Many former employees give this popular pizza chain high marks for offering flexible hours and being a good place to make some extra cash quickly. And as someone who happens to have worked there for a couple of months during college, I can vouch that it’s a particularly good place for students juggling coursework and internships along with a part-time job. Unfortunately, as several reviewers note (and I can confirm), you’ll probably gain a few extra pounds working at California Pizza Kitchen from all the free pizza and pasta dishes you get to eat.

Photo Credit: kana76

3rd Best Restaurant Job (Tie):  Outback Steakhouse


Overall Rating: 3.4

Outback offers servers the lowest average salary of any company in the top 10, with waiters earning just $3.76 per hour on average, but according to the reviews on Glassdoor, employees more than make up for this in generous tips from families gorging themselves on steak. But the fact that so much more of the salary here depends on tips means workers should be prepared for a few bad days from time to time.

“Money is not consistent,” a server wrote in one review. “Sometimes you make $100 and in a similar shift on a different day you did about the same amount of work and you leave with $15.”

Photo Credit: LorE Denizen

2nd Best Restaurant Job: Texas Roadhouse


Overall Rating: 3.5

It should come as little surprise that two of the companies to rank among the top five are steakhouses, where prices – and therefore tips – tend to be higher than at other casual restaurants. But aside from the good money, employees also praise Texas Roadhouse for having a good environment and flexible shifts.

“This is a great place to work if you need something part time and want decent money,” one server wrote in a review. “There is a great family atmosphere and a good corporate environment.”

Photo Credit: uzo978

The Best Restaurant Job: Carrabba's Italian Grill


Overall Rating: 3.7

Carrabba’s is the one company on the list whose employees generally say they are “satisfied” with the company, as opposed to just “OK.” Servers earn just $5.70 on average per hour, according to Glassdoor, but review after review attests to the generous tips that make the pay more competitive. What’s more, many boast of incredible work schedules that, combined with good pay, make it that much more enjoyable to work at Carrabba’s.

“The hours are awesome...you only work four to six hours a night and can sometimes walk with $100 or more a shift,” one employee notes in a review.

Photo Credit: Carrabbas.com

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