15 Shockingly High-Paying Jobs at Your Favorite Stores and Restaurants

Discover the lucrative roles behind the scenes of your treasured stores and eateries.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Finding a job to reduce your financial stress can be exhausting, especially if you’re hitting roadblocks in terms of required education, degrees, or experience.

Stop seeking out corporate gigs, and turn your attention instead to food service and retail.

Many think these jobs don’t pay much, but you only need to know where to look. Following are some companies that treat their employees with more value and offer true opportunities to climb the ranks.

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Aldi

JHVEPhoto/Adobe Aldi grocery store

Many shoppers frequent Aldi to save money, but it’s also a great place to earn it.

In 2021, Aldi announced their average national starting wages at $15 per hour for cashiers or open store employees and $19 for warehouse staff, along with a host of benefits.

If you progress through the company’s ranks, you could boost your bank account once you start making up to $90,000 or more per year as a district manager.

The Cheesecake Factory

JHVEPhoto/Adobe Cheesecake Factory restaurant

Serving jobs can be a hit or miss regarding how much you make — many restaurants pay the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour, relying on tips to flesh out the remainder of your wages.

The Cheesecake Factory, however, pays an average hourly rate of around $10 per hour plus tips. With tips factored into the equation, servers at the chain restaurant can expect to make an average of $24.33 per hour.

Target

JHVEPhoto/Adobe Target store

In 2022, Target announced that all employees would make a starting wage of at least $15 per hour and up to $24, depending on the location and position.

Their benefits are also available for part-time employees working at least 25 hours per week. Some of these benefits include medical, education assistance programs, paid family leave, and adoption and surrogacy reimbursement plans.

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In-N-Out Burger

Tada Images/Adobe In-N-Out Burger

The beloved California-based burger joint In-N-Out is another great restaurant to work at, with associates making an average hourly wage of $18.

There’s also tons of incentive to stay with the company and climb the ladder to a managerial position — restaurant managers make an average yearly salary of $160,000.

Unfortunately, these jobs are exclusive to those in the country's Southwest region, mainly California.

Costco

Alfonsodetomas/Adobe Costco store

In 2021, Costco raised its minimum wage to $17 per hour. Not only this, but they steadily raised this number from $14 within three years, meaning employees may be able to expect raises as inflation and cost of living continue to increase.

Costco employees also receive a free executive membership and three other free memberships to give to friends and family.

Starbucks

wachiwit/Adobe Starbucks coffee store

In 2021, Starbucks announced that all new workers would receive a minimum starting wage of $15 per hour, with all barista wages between $15 and $23. 

And while tips aren’t as substantial as restaurant gigs, baristas do earn some extra cash from more generous patrons.

Starbucks is often praised for its many employee benefits, including PTO, parental leave, adoption and surrogacy reimbursement programs, tuition assistance, and more.

REI

ColleenMichaels/Adobe Exterior of an REI Co-Op store

The outdoor retailer REI offers an average hourly wage of $16 per hour, nearly $9 more than the federal minimum wage. If you’re looking to join in with a managerial position or work your way up, expect to make an annual salary of roughly $44,600.

The company also prides itself on its workplace culture, advertising positions on the list of both the best 100 companies to work for in general and for women.

Chipotle

JHVEPhoto/Adobe chipotle mexican grill

In 2021, Chipotle announced that all crew members would make between $11 and $18 per hour, for an average of $15 per hour. They also offer referral bonuses, and employees receive tips.

Not only that, but they rolled out paths for crew members to progress to high-ranking general managers positions that pay an average of $100,000 annually in only 3.5 years.

IKEA

Alexandr Blinov/Adobe IKEA furniture store

IKEA, the famous Swedish furniture store, made a point to permanently raise their starting wages to at least $16 per hour, with some locations offering $17 or even $18.

Employee benefits include parental leave, a retirement fund, discounted food and restaurant purchases, pet insurance, and an employee discount — any employee working at least 20 hours per week qualifies.

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IHOP

Tada Images/Adobe IHOP resturant

IHOP is another chain restaurant that offers their wait staff more than minimum wage, with servers making a reported average of around $13 per hour before tips. Cooks also make a decent amount at a little over $15 per hour.

If you work your way up to manager, expect to make nearly $45,000 annually working as an assistant manager and an average of almost $57,000 as a general manager.

NIKE

Nattawit/Adobe Nike store logo

NIKE retail stores start all positions at a minimum of $15 per hour, with a reported average of $20 per hour for cashier positions.

On top of an employee discount, other employee benefits include PTO, medical, dental, and vision care, an FSA/HSA, 401(K), EAP qualification, discounted NIKE stock shares, and more.

Panera Bread

Victoria/Adobe Panera Bread building

If working in traditional service or wait staff positions sounds too stressful, consider a fast and casual setting like Panera Bread.

Salad and sandwich makers can expect their hourly wages to start around $15 to $18 per hour plus tips.

Employee benefits include potential merit-based quarterly raises, PTO, medical, dental, and vision coverage, 401(k) investment, and more. They also offer career growth opportunities, with general managers making an average of $60,000 per year.

Trader Joe’s

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe Trader Joe's store

Trader Joe’s offers an average starting pay of around $17 per hour for crew members, with opportunities and incentives to grow within the company.

Entry-levels are crew members and can be promoted to merchants, a recognition for stellar customer service exclusive to existing employees, or promoted to mates — assistant managers.

Mates can be hired within or externally, but the highest position is store manager, or captain, and it’s always hired from the existing mate pool. Captains earn anywhere from $88,000 to as much as $111,000 annually.

Olive Garden

wolterke/Adobe Olive Garden restaurant

In 2021, Olive Garden decided to raise the company’s minimum wage to $10 per hour, which has now increased to $12 per hour. Combined with tips, wait staff can expect comfortable pay.

Line cooks make an average of nearly $17 per hour. If you choose to work your way up to head chef, your salary would likely be just under $51,000 annually.

Whole Foods

wolterke/Adobe The exterior of Whole Foods Market

There are a variety of entry-level positions with varying pay at Whole Foods. The basic position is team member, which pays an average of $16 per hour. Employees in the food preparation areas of the store pick up a little extra cash for an average of $17 per hour.

Benefits include HSA and 401(k) savings, discounts at the store and other partnering companies, and cashable PTO.

Bottom line

peopleimages.com/Adobe Coffee shop manager and team member

It can be hard to move beyond living paycheck to paycheck when working in retail and food service, but it isn’t impossible.

While plenty of companies take advantage of and exploit their employees, there are just as many that not only compensate handsomely but also offer incentivizing employee benefits and opportunities to grow within the company.

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Author Details

Lucy Clark

Lucy Clark has considerable experience writing about real estate, as well as homes and gardens, home value, and more. She is savvy and resourceful, and she aims to ensure others can be, as well.