Cooking up compensation plans for chefs


I am preparing a compensation package for a chef. Do you recommend a certain number of vacation and sick days? Is there an industry standard?

– Abby Singh, Owner/Manager, Canteen 900, Forty Fort, PA


While there are good data available on employee compensation in the restaurant industry, information on sick days and vacation days for salaried employees is not as clear.  According to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the national average for a first-year employee across all industries is just over seven paid days (whether sick, vacation or holiday) per year.

Paid sick days for restaurant workers remains a controversial topic but the Healthy Families Act proposes one hour accrued for every thirty hours worked, to a maximum of seven days (56 hours) per year, consistent with the BLS average.

Depending on your operations, adequate vacation and paid sick days may be important in keeping your employees loyal. As part of an overall compensation package, time off can be important in offsetting higher salaries. 

In terms of standard restaurant industry practices, I have heard everything ranging from zero days except for scheduled days off for chefs to restaurants that close for an entire month of paid vacation for all salaried employees. A few samples from restaurateurs show little consistency for chefs’ compensation packages:

  • A restaurant owner of a large independent fine dining restaurant says, “Industry norm is that no one gets paid sick days, including full-time salaried employees.”
  • A restaurant manager in a large fine dining group says, “Six days per six months. But don’t take them all at once!”
  • A chef in an independent casual dining operation says, “One day per month but it’s frowned upon to use it if you don’t need it.”
  • And the owner of a small fine dining restaurant says, “Depending on the company, I would say 14 vacation days and 4 sick days is pretty standard.

Considering averages for full-time workers in general, I would recommend going with what you think the market allows, keeping in mind you can use more days to sweeten a compensation package. I would be interested to hear from readers how many days are offered in their restaurants via the comment box below.

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