Food servers are one of the least happy careers in the United States.

At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, food servers rate their career happiness 2.4 out of 5 stars which puts them in the bottom 3% of careers.

To put this into perspective, we compared how happy food servers are to similar careers in the industry. Take a look at the results below:

Salaries and satisfaction ratings in similar careers

Career Satisfaction Avg Salary
Restaurant cook
2.5
$30k
Underwriter
2.5
$76k
Teller
2.5
$36k
Host and hostess
2.5
$25k
Shipping/Receiving clerk
2.4
$37k
Food server
2.4
$26k
Postal service worker
2.4
$52k
Garbage collector
2.4
$38k
Vehicle cleaner
2.4
$29k
Food preparation worker
2.3
$29k

So what does it mean to be happy in your career? Let’s break it down into different dimensions:

  • Salary: Are food servers happy with their salary?
  • Meaning: Do food servers find their jobs meaningful?
  • Personality fit: How well suited are people’s personalities to their everyday tasks as food servers?
  • Work environment: How enjoyable are food server’s work environments?
  • Skills utilization: Are food servers making the best use of their abilities?

Are food servers happy with their salary?

Food servers rated their satisfaction with their salaries 2.6/5. Food servers tend to be quite unhappy with their salary, with very few reporting satisfaction with their pay.

We asked food servers how fairly compensated they are for their work.
Their response was:

2.6 out of 5 stars

19146 food servers

5 Star
6%

6% of food servers rated their compensation 5 stars

4 Star
19%

19% of food servers rated their compensation 4 stars

3 Star
27%

27% of food servers rated their compensation 3 stars

2 Star
23%

23% of food servers rated their compensation 2 stars

1 Star
25%

25% of food servers rated their compensation 1 stars

Do food servers find their jobs meaningful?

On average, food servers rate the meaningfulness of their work a 1.8/5. The majority of food servers struggle to find any sort of meaning in their work, likely resulting in less satisfaction with the career overall.

We asked food servers how meaningful they found their work.
Their response was:

1.8 out of 5 stars

19173 food servers

5 Star
3%

3% of food servers rated how meaningful they found their career 5 stars

4 Star
5%

5% of food servers rated how meaningful they found their career 4 stars

3 Star
14%

14% of food servers rated how meaningful they found their career 3 stars

2 Star
28%

28% of food servers rated how meaningful they found their career 2 stars

1 Star
50%

50% of food servers rated how meaningful they found their career 1 stars

How well are people’s personalities suited to everyday tasks as food servers?

Food servers rated their personality fit with their work an average of 3.6/5. The majority of food servers find their personalities quite well suited to their work, with relatively few having complaints about their fit.

We asked food servers how well their personalities fit into their careers.
Their response was:

3.6 out of 5 stars

20662 food servers

5 Star
27%

27% of food servers rated their career fit 5 stars

4 Star
31%

31% of food servers rated their career fit 4 stars

3 Star
21%

21% of food servers rated their career fit 3 stars

2 Star
11%

11% of food servers rated their career fit 2 stars

1 Star
9%

9% of food servers rated their career fit 1 stars

How enjoyable is a food server’s work environment?

As a whole, food servers rated their enjoyment of their work environment 2.9/5. Some food servers are happy with their work environment, but it does not seem to be a meaningful contributer to career satisfaction for most.

We asked food servers how much they enjoyed their work environment.
Their response was:

2.9 out of 5 stars

20617 food servers

5 Star
11%

11% of food servers rated their work environment 5 stars

4 Star
24%

24% of food servers rated their work environment 4 stars

3 Star
27%

27% of food servers rated their work environment 3 stars

2 Star
22%

22% of food servers rated their work environment 2 stars

1 Star
16%

16% of food servers rated their work environment 1 stars

Are food servers making the best use of their abilities?

Former food servers on CareerExplorer have rated their skills utilization 2.1/5. Most feel that their skills are being underutilized in the career, probably leading to more general dissatisfaction with being a food server.

We asked food servers how well their abilities were used in their careers.
Their response was:

2.1 out of 5 stars

20669 food servers

5 Star
6%

6% of food servers rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 5 stars

4 Star
9%

9% of food servers rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 4 stars

3 Star
16%

16% of food servers rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 3 stars

2 Star
28%

28% of food servers rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 2 stars

1 Star
40%

40% of food servers rated their how well their skills were utilized in their career 1 stars