Taco Bell, Chipotle, and other chains pay managers as much as $180,000. Here’s what it takes to land a high-earning fast-food job. – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer

DAVID RAUDALES UK

Taco Bell, Chipotle, and other chains pay managers as much as $180,000. Here’s what it takes to land a high-earning fast-food job.

A Taco Bell manager serves beverages to customers. Managers who achieve the rank of “entrepreneur” at Taco Bell can earn up to $100,000 a year.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

The annual mean wage of a restaurant food manager is $63,820, according to government data.But some fast-food chains pay select managers up to $100,000 a year. An In-N-Out manager can earn more than $180K. Here are the chains that offer six-figure salaries for general managers. 

By some estimates, the restaurant industry has the most job vacancies to fill in the US. Since the pandemic, fast-food workers have fled the sector, leaving restaurant chains struggling to find help.

That’s led to increased wages for cashiers and cooks, some of whom are being replaced by automated voice ordering systems.

But how have fast-food general managers, whose duties range from dealing with fussy customers to inventory management, fared over the years?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage of a restaurant food manager is $63,820 as of May 2022. But chains like Chipotle, Taco Bell, and In-N-Out Burger are paying some managers much higher than the industry standard, with salaries topping over $100,000.

At In-N-Out, a restaurant manager can earn more than $180,000 a year.

To put these rare six-figure salaries into perspective, these managers are running one store. At McDonald’s, a district manager supervising about five Midwest stores makes anywhere from $65,000 to $80,000 a year, according to LinkedIn job postings.

The way these chains see it, paying top salaries to store managers leads to top results.

“Offering the highest wages in the industry is one way we attract the best people to care for our customers,” In-N-Out owner Lynsi Snyder wrote in a new book she penned about the chain’s history.

Here’s a closer look at the fast-food chains paying top dollar for store managers.

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out’s owner says the company built its fast-food empire in part by paying good wages to employees and managers.

Nancy Luna/Insider

The average pay of a store manager at the iconic fast-food chain is more than $180,000 per year — including store profit-sharing, owner Lynsi Snyder wrote in her soon-to-be-released book about the chain’s history.

In the 208-page book, Snyder reveals how her grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, created a fast-food empire by, in part, paying employees and managers handsome wages.

But to become an In-N-Out manager, you must work up from the bottom and learn every role necessary to run a restaurant, including working the drive-thru and flipping burgers.

In-N-Out is based in Irvine, California, and operates nearly 400 locations in seven states.

At Taco Bell, you don’t have to start as an hourly employee to become a store manager. But it helps, the company says.

Matt Marton/AP

Taco Bell

In 2020, Taco Bell launched a pilot program where select managers at company-owned restaurants would increase their salary to $100,000 a year. At the time, the pay boost amounted to nearly a $50,000 a year raise.

Since that time, the test has evolved to become the ‘”Entrepreneur” program, the chain told Insider. The leader-development program is for general managers of company-owned restaurants.

“This group of individuals demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit, an attitude of ownership toward their restaurant, and a creative growth mindset,” Taco Bell told Insider. “Entrepreneurs’ base pay starts at $80,000 with the opportunity to earn up to $100,000 a year, including bonuses.”

The chain did not disclose how many general managers are in the program.

“We aim to add more participants annually,” the company said.

It’s unclear what the hundreds of franchise stores run by independent operators pay managers.

“While Taco Bell Corporate cannot mandate salaries and wages of franchisees, we offer competitive pay rates and encourage franchisees to do the same,” Taco Bell said.

General managers at Taco Bell are responsible for various tasks, including growing and developing team members, ensuring the business runs smoothly, operations, managing schedules, and keeping customers satisfied, the chain said.

Unlike In-N-Out, you don’t have to start as an hourly employee to become a store manager. But it helps, Taco Bell said. The chain said 54% of Taco Bell general managers started as restaurant-level workers.

“This doesn’t mean that we don’t accept qualified leaders from outside of Taco Bell, but we love when we see growth from within,” the chain said.

Sometimes, managers can climb up the ladder and land a C-suite job. Taco Bell President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Grams began his career as an assistant general manager in Detroit, Michigan.

Taco Bell is based in Irvine, California. Of its 7,241 restaurants, 473 are company-owned as of the second quarter of 2023.

Chipotle

The “restaurateur” is the highest of the general manager positions at Chipotle.

Chipotle

In less than four years, a line worker at Chipotle can advance to become a top store manager, or “restaurateur,” and earn a six-figure salary.

The restaurateur is the highest of the general manager positions at Chipotle. Like In-N-Out, Chipotle prefers these positions to be filled from the ranks of current employees, instead of outsiders. In August, Chipotle said over 85 percent of its restaurant leadership started as crew members.

“Restaurateurs are chosen from the ranks of general managers for their skill at managing their restaurant and their employees,” Chipotle told Insider.

The designation of restaurateur is “earned by high performing general managers that run an excellent restaurant through exceptional people and exceptional food,” the chain added.

“Chipotle is a people and food company and to continue serving exceptional food, we need exceptional people to grow with us,” Scott Boatwright, chief operating officer, said in August. “We are looking to cultivate new culinary driven talent and develop them into world-class operators to support our future growth plans.”

The average annual pay for a restaurateur is $113,500, according to the chain’s website. The average pay for general managers one level down is $89,900 a year.

Chipotle is based in Newport Beach, California, and operates more than 3,250 restaurants in the US, Canada, the UK, France, and Germany.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack managers earn up to $78,000 a year, according to current LinkedIn job postings.

Edison Graff

According to LinkedIn, restaurant manager jobs at the Danny Meyer-founded Shake Shack range from $53,000 to $78,000 a year. But earning up to $100,000 a year is possible if you play your cards right.

At least, that’s what Angela Campbell told Insider in 2021. She said she earned over $100,000 per year as a general manager at a Shake Shack in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Campbell could not be reached for comment. But according to her LinkedIn profile, she remains a GM in Las Vegas, a city booming with tourism.

Campbell, a general manager at Shake Shack since 2019 who previously worked in store leadership roles at Urth Caffe and Nordstrom, said in 2021 that her main job is to keep “tabs on everything.”

She tracks inventory supplies, oversees a growing number of digital orders, prepares for significant events in town, and manages about 75 employees, she told Insider in 2021.

Insider asked Shake Shack if Campbell’s salary reflected the average wages paid to restaurant GMs. The New York-based chain declined to comment.

Shake Shack operates 310 locations in the US.

Jersey Mike’s

General managers at Jersey Mike’s can expect a 50-hour workweek.

Nancy Luna/Insider

Jersey Mike’s sells premium subs with meats and cheeses sliced by hand in front of customers. LinkedIn says a store in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers $60,000 to $100,000 a year for a general manager role, depending on experience and tenure.

It’s unclear if this is the average range for most general managers in the system. Jersey Mike’s couldn’t be reached for comment.

In Charlotte, the franchisee is crystal clear about this GM’s duties.

“As a GM you are only required to close 2 times a week,” the job post states. “We close at 9 pm and the closing team gets out around 9:45 pm. Your other shifts usually are 8 am until 3 or 4 pm. Your work week consists of around 50 hours.”

At least, they admit it is not a 40–hour a week job.

In 2022, according to Restaurant Business, Jersey Mike’s was one of the top-growing restaurant chains in the US. Last year, the chain added nearly 300 new locations. Jersey Mike’s has about 2,400 locations.

Sweetgreen

Sweetgreen pays general managers from $60,000 to $100,000 annually, according to LinkedIn job postings.

Nancy Luna/Insider

Sweetgreen is a rapidly growing chain that sells premium salads and warm bowls. According to LinkedIn, the 200-unit chain is looking to fill store manager positions across the US that pay an annual salary ranging from $60,000 to $100,000.

The tech-focused Sweetgreen, which opened its first restaurant with an automated food assembly line this year, declined to answer questions about its manager pay structure.

The chain calls its store leaders “head coaches,” a nod to the lead-by-example leadership style of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

“The Head Coach is the anchor of the store — you’re an enthusiastic leader, a quick thinker, a problem-solver, a skilled communicator and a motivator,” according to restaurant manager job descriptions posted on LinkedIn.

Though the duties of the head coaches are the same, their salaries vary depending on the restaurant’s location, according to LinkedIn. That is typical for many businesses as some cities have a higher cost of living. For example, a Sweetgreen general manager in Seattle pays from $75,000 to $100,106 a year. A GM in Irvine, California can earn $69,000 to $93,000 annually. But in Arlington, Virginia the pay range lowers to $70,000 to $80,000 a year.

Are you a fast food insider with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected].

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