In 2023, the youth labor force grew by an astonishing 10.4%.
Sixteen is an age of newfound independence, driver’s licenses and, for many, the first foray into the professional world. As young adults embark on this exciting journey, finding a job can be both a rite of passage and a necessary step toward financial independence. But where to start?
Look no further than the dynamic and bustling world of the restaurant industry!
The restaurant industry offers a range of exciting opportunities for young individuals who are eager to dip their toes into the world of work and gain valuable experience.
Whether you’re looking to earn some extra pocket money, save up for future endeavors or simply learn essential life skills, numerous food establishments are willing to hire motivated 16-year-olds.
Read on to find a list of places that hire at 16 in the restaurant industry.
What Types of Jobs Can a 16-Year-Old Get in the Restaurant Industry?
From fast-food joints and fast-casual restaurants to casual dining restaurants, the restaurant industry is a vast landscape with a multitude of opportunities for young job seekers.
In fact, restaurants employ one-third of all working teens, more than any other industry. Around 1.7 million teenagers worked in restaurants in 2018—the highest number since 2007.
Here are some of the positions you can consider applying for at 16:
- Cashier/cashier assistant: Working as a cashier in a restaurant not only helps you develop strong customer service skills but also provides you with experience handling transactions and working with point-of-sale systems.
- Server/server assistant: As a server, you’ll learn the art of customer interaction, taking orders, serving food and ensuring that guests have an enjoyable dining experience.
- Host/hostess: You’ll be responsible for greeting customers, managing reservations and maintaining an organized seating arrangement.
- Food runner: This role involves delivering dishes from the kitchen to the tables. It’s a fast-paced position that gives you a firsthand look at the kitchen-to-table process.
- Food assembler: You’ll be responsible for preparing and arranging ingredients to craft dishes that not only taste great but also look visually appealing. This role is a fantastic opportunity to learn about flavor combinations, portion sizes and presentation techniques.
- Food prep worker: As a food prep worker, your role revolves around ensuring that the kitchen operates smoothly by preparing ingredients before the rush hours. You’ll be responsible for chopping, slicing, marinating and portioning ingredients according to the recipes.
- Busser: Bussers are essential for maintaining a clean and organized dining environment. You’ll assist servers by clearing and setting tables efficiently.
- Dishwasher: As the backbone of any restaurant, dishwashers ensure that dishes, utensils and kitchen equipment are sparkling clean and ready for use.
Now that we have explored the most popular restaurant roles available to 16-year-olds like you, it’s time to discover places that hire at 16. They are organized into three distinct categories: fast-food places, fast-casual restaurants and casual dining restaurants.
Let’s start with fast-food places that hire at 16.
Fast-Food Places That Hire at 16
Fast-food places typically offer quick service, limited customization and lower price points, often focusing on standardized menu items and speedy transactions. They are often the go-to choice for many 16-year-olds seeking their first job.
Within fast-food places, positions such as cashier, busser and food prep worker are frequently available for the young workforce. These roles provide a fast-paced environment where you’ll learn about order accuracy, customer service and efficiency.
Here’s a list of fast-food places that hire at 16.
McDonald’s is one of the most renowned fast-food chains globally. It is known for its iconic golden arches and ubiquitous presence in over 100 countries, serving millions with its signature menu offerings. At 16, you can land positions like cashier, food prep worker and drive-through attendant.
Pay rates can vary based on location, but they’re typically around the minimum wage. Benefits of working at McDonald’s include flexible scheduling, opportunities for advancement and employee discounts.
2. Pizza Hut
With thousands of locations worldwide, Pizza Hut offers a broad selection of pizzas and other Italian-American dishes. As a 16-year-old, you might be employed as a cashier or customer service representative, taking orders and assisting customers.
Pay typically starts around minimum wage, and perks include discounts on food and a chance to develop communication and teamwork skills in a fast-paced environment.
3. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
KFC, one of the largest fast-food chains in the world, is known for its finger-licking good fried chicken. It offers cashier or food prep roles to 16-year-olds.
Pay usually aligns with the minimum wage, and benefits include staff meal discounts and opportunities for growth within the company.
4. Burger King
Burger King, a global chain of flame-grilled burgers, offers roles like cashier and kitchen crew member for 16-year-olds. Starting pay is typically around minimum wage, and benefits include flexible scheduling, meal discounts and potential career advancement.
5. Taco Bell
Taco Bell, specializing in Mexican-inspired fast food, often hires 16-year-olds as team members to handle order taking, food preparation and customer service.
Pay usually starts around minimum wage, while perks include employee meal discounts, a vibrant work environment and opportunities to enhance multitasking and communication skills.
Arby’s, famous for its roast beef sandwiches, has over 3,000 locations in the United States. It employs 16-year-olds in roles such as cashier or crew member. Crew members’ responsibilities include assisting with food preparation and maintaining a clean dining area.
Pay generally begins at minimum wage. Employee benefits include meal discounts and the chance to work in a team-oriented environment.
Chick-fil-A, known for its delicious chicken sandwiches and exceptional customer service, has almost 3,000 locations all over the U.S. It offers positions like cashier and front-line team member to 16-year-olds.
Pay varies but is often competitive within the industry. Chick-fil-A is known for its positive work culture, employee meal discounts and opportunities for advancement.
8. Chuck E. Cheese
Chuck E. Cheese operates as a family-centric entertainment center and fast-food restaurant chain. Its establishments feature an array of arcade games and play areas for kids. With almost 500 locations in the U.S., Chuck E. Cheese hires 16-year-olds as game room attendants and cashier assistants.
Pay usually aligns with minimum wage.Perks of working at Chuck E. Cheese include a fun work environment, employee discounts and the chance to develop customer service skills.
9. Domino’s Pizza
Domino’s Pizza is one of the largest pizza delivery and carryout chains in the world, with over 20,000 locations worldwide. It offers roles like customer service representative and pizza maker for 16-year-olds.
Pay can vary, including base pay and tips for certain roles. Employee benefits include meal discounts and opportunities to gain experience in a fast-paced environment.
Subway is a widely recognized global sandwich restaurant chain with a vast number of locations around the world. It often hires 16-year-olds as sandwich artists. As a sandwich artist, you’ll assemble sandwiches, interact with customers and maintain cleanliness in the store.
Pay usually starts around minimum wage. Employee benefits encompass meal discounts, skill development in food preparation and a chance to engage with a variety of customers.
Fast-Casual Restaurants That Hire at 16
Fast-casual restaurants provide a slightly elevated dining experience with higher-quality ingredients, more customizable options and a more relaxed atmosphere, bridging the gap between fast food and full-service dining.
As a 16-year-old, you could find opportunities at these establishments as a counter attendant, server or food assembler. Fast-casual environments tend to be more interactive, allowing you to develop strong communication skills.
Explore the list below for places that hire at 16.
1. Noodles and Company
Noodles & Company is a fast-casual restaurant chain that serves a variety of noodle-based dishes inspired by international cuisines. It boasts close to 500 locations in the United States. At 16, you might be hired as a cashier, kitchen assistant or dishwasher.
Pay generally starts at minimum wage. Employee benefits include staff meal discounts, a positive work environment and opportunities to improve customer service skills.
2. Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle is known for its customizable burritos, bowls and other Mexican-inspired dishes made with fresh ingredients. This fast-casual restaurant chain has a widespread presence in the United States and a growing number of international locations.As a 16-year-old, you could work as a crew member, handling customer orders, food preparation and maintaining cleanliness.
Pay typically starts around minimum wage. Benefits include discounted meals, potential for advancement and a dynamic atmosphere that fosters teamwork.
3. Shake Shack
With around 300 locations in the U.S., Shake Shack is renowned for its gourmet burgers, hot dogs and shakes. At Shake Shack restaurants, 16-year-olds might be responsible for assisting with taking orders, preparing food and maintaining the cleanliness of the dining area.
Compensation typically aligns with minimum wage or local guidelines. Employee benefits include meal discounts, a vibrant work environment and the chance to learn about food service and customer interactions.
4. Panda Express
Panda Express serves American Chinese cuisine, including signature dishes like Orange Chicken. With more than 2,300 locations, it is the largest family-owned and operated Asian fast-casual restaurant chain in America.In this restaurant, 16-year-olds could find roles as kitchen assistants, cashiers or food prep workers.
Starting pay is usually around minimum wage, while benefits include meal discounts, exposure to multicultural food offerings and a chance to work in a fast-paced environment.
5. Panera Bread
Panera Bread is a fast-casual bakery-cafe chain known for its fresh-baked bread, soups, salads and sandwiches. It has over 2,000 locations, all of which are in the U.S. and Canada.16-year-olds working there could be responsible for taking orders, assembling sandwiches and ensuring a welcoming atmosphere.
Pay rates vary, and benefits include meal discounts, opportunities for skill development and a supportive work environment.
Wingstop is known for its wide selection of flavorful wing options, ranging from mild to hot, and for its focus on offering high-quality chicken. It has around 1,500 locations, most of them being in the U.S.16-year-olds might be hired there as cashiers, food prep workers or kitchen assistants.
Their pay typically starts around minimum wage. Benefits include meal discounts and a fast-paced environment that builds efficiency and teamwork skills.
7. QDOBA Mexican Eats
QDOBA Mexican Eats offers customizable Mexican dishes, including burritos, bowls and tacos. It currently has 753 locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.16-year-olds who work in this fast-casual restaurant often assist with taking orders, food prep and maintaining the dining area.
Starting pay is usually around minimum wage. Employee perks include discounted meals, a chance to improve communication skills and the satisfaction of creating delicious meals for customers.
8. Five Guys
With almost 1,500 locations all over the U.S., Five Guys is known for its fresh burgers and hand-cut fries. 16-year-olds could find positions as crew members responsible for tasks such as taking orders, food prep and maintaining cleanliness.
Pay rates can vary, and benefits might include meal discounts, exposure to a fast-paced kitchen environment and developing teamwork skills applicable in various settings.
9. Boston Market
Boston Market, boasting over 300 locations in the U.S., specializes in rotisserie chicken and homestyle meals. In this restaurant, 16-year-olds might secure roles as cashiers, food prep workers or dishwashers.
Pay generally starts around minimum wage, while benefits include meal discounts, a chance to learn about food service and a supportive work environment.
10. Firehouse Subs
Firehouse Subs is a Burger King sibling chain known for its hearty submarine sandwiches and commitment to public safety through its Firehouse Public Safety Foundation. It has more than 1,000 locations in the U.S., and 16-year-olds might find positions there as cashiers and food assemblers.
Starting pay is usually around minimum wage. Employee benefits might include meal discounts, teamwork experience and the opportunity to work with various ingredients.
Casual Dining Restaurants That Hire at 16
Casual dining restaurants offer a more leisurely and comfortable dining setting compared to fast food and fast-casual establishments. These restaurants often feature a broader menu selection, table service and a focus on enhancing the overall dining experience.
As a 16-year-old, you might get hired there as a host/hostess, busser, dishwasher or server/server assistant. These positions provide a chance to learn about customer interactions, teamwork and the overall flow of a sit-down dining experience.
Below, you’ll find a curated list of casual dining establishments that hire at 16.
1. Red Lobster
Red Lobster is an international seafood restaurant chain known for its fresh and delicious seafood offerings in a casual dining atmosphere. It has 653 locations in the United States. At this establishment, 16-year-olds can often find positions as hosts/hostesses or bussers.
The pay for 16-year-olds in these roles may vary by location, but it’s typically minimum wage or slightly above. Benefits include employee discounts on meals, a friendly work environment and the opportunity to learn about customer service and the restaurant industry.
2. Stonefire Grill
Stonefire Grill is a fast-casual, takeout and catering restaurant with 13 locations across Southern California. It is known for its freshly prepared dishes, including grilled meats, salads and other comfort foods.16-year-olds can find positions as food runners or kitchen assistants.
Pay rates for these roles are around minimum wage or according to local regulations. Benefits of working at Stonefire Grill include employee meal discounts, the chance to gain experience in a restaurant setting and opportunities to develop teamwork and communication skills.
3. On the Border
On the Border is a Mexican-inspired casual dining restaurant chain, offering a variety of Tex-Mex dishes and drinks. It has over 100 locations in the U.S. In On the Border restaurants, 16-year-olds might work as hosts/hostesses or server assistants.
Pay rates align with minimum wage or local standards, while benefits include meal discounts, a fun work environment and the opportunity to learn customer service skills and the basics of the restaurant industry.
Applebee’s serves a diverse menu of American cuisine, including burgers, salads and more. This restaurant chain has almost 2,000 locations in the U.S. and around the world. 16-year-olds can secure positions there as hosts/hostesses, server assistants or even servers in some cases—depending on local regulations.
Pay rates for these roles are usually in line with minimum wage or local guidelines. Benefits include meal discounts, a chance to develop customer service skills and insights into restaurant operations.
5. Olive Garden
Olive Garden is an Italian-American casual dining restaurant chain boasting a family-friendly environment and known for its pasta dishes, salads and breadsticks. A sibling chain to Red Lobster, it has almost 2,000 locations, with most of them in the U.S. 16-year-olds can work in Olive Graden restaurants as hosts/hostesses or bussers.
Their compensation is typically in line with minimum wage or local standards. Employee benefits include meal discounts, a chance to learn about hospitality and teamwork and a positive work atmosphere.
6. City Barbeque
City Barbeque is a casual dining restaurant specializing in smoked meats and classic barbecue dishes. It has over 60 locations across eight U.S. states 16-year-olds can be hired as food runners, kitchen helpers or front counter attendants.
Their compensation usually aligns with minimum wage or local regulations. Benefits include staff discounts on meals and the chance to learn about food preparation and customer service skills.
7. Ruby Tuesday
With over 400 locations in the U.S., Ruby Tuesday is known for its diverse menu, warm ambiance and commitment to serving flavorful dishes. These include everything from steaks and burgers to fresh salads and seafood delicacies. 16-year-olds can find positions as hosts/hostesses, bussers or server assistants. Their responsibilities could involve greeting guests, assisting servers, clearing tables and maintaining a tidy dining area.
Compensation is typically at minimum wage or based on local regulations. Employee benefits include discounts on meals, the opportunity to gain customer service experience and exposure to restaurant operations.
8. Big Boy
Big Boy is a restaurant chain known for its classic American comfort food and iconic Big Boy burger. It has over 60 locations in the U.S., with 50 of them being in Michigan. 16-year-olds could potentially work in this restaurant as hosts/hostesses or bussers.
Their compensation usually adheres to minimum wage. Benefits include employee meal discounts, valuable experience in a restaurant setting and the opportunity to develop communication skills.
Denny’s is a popular casual dining restaurant chain known for its 24/7 operation and diverse menu, including breakfast, lunch and dinner options. It has over 1,500 locations in the U.S. and around the world 16-year-olds can work at Denny’s as hosts/hostesses or server assistants.
Their compensation is typically aligned with minimum wage or local regulations. Benefits include meal discounts, flexible working hours (given Denny’s operates around the clock) and a chance to develop customer service and teamwork skills.
10. Bob Evans
Bob Evans is a casual dining restaurant chain known for its farm-to-table concept and comfort food offerings. It has nearly 500 locations in 18 U.S. states. Here, 16-year-olds might secure positions in this restaurant as hosts/hostesses, carryout assistants or bussers.
Compensation is usually in line with minimum wage or local guidelines, while benefits include meal discounts and the chance to learn about food service and customer interactions.
How Many Hours Can a 16-Year-Old Work?
In the United States, the number of hours a 16-year-old can work is regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets guidelines to ensure that young workers are protected and that their work doesn’t interfere with their education and overall well-being.
Here’s a general overview of the restrictions for 16-year-old workers:
- School days: On school days, 16-year-olds are usually limited to working up to 3 hours per day and up to 18 hours per week.
- Non-school days: On days when school isn’t in session, such as weekends and holidays, 16-year-olds can generally work up to 8 hours per day and up to 40 hours per week.
- Late hours: Some regulations might prevent 16-year-olds from working before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. on any day, except during the summer months when they can work until 9:00 p.m.
It’s important to note that these regulations can vary by state, and there might be exceptions for different types of jobs.
Before you apply for a job, it’s advisable to research the labor laws in your state or country. This will help you understand the specific restrictions and requirements that apply to your age group.
You can also inquire about any necessary work permits or parental consent forms that your local regulations might require. Remember, it’s crucial to prioritize your education and well-being while you gain valuable work experience.
How to Find Places That Hire at 16 Near You
Finding a job at the age of 16 can be an exciting and empowering experience, providing you with valuable skills and financial independence. But how do you locate places that hire at 16 near you?
Here are some tried-and-true tips that will help you kickstart your journey into the working world:
- Visit nearby establishments: Take a proactive approach by visiting local businesses and asking if they have any openings. Even if they don’t, leaving your resume and showing your enthusiasm can leave a positive impression for future opportunities.
- Ask family and friends: Your network is a powerful resource. Let your family, friends, teachers and mentors know that you’re looking for a job. They might have insider information or connections that can help you land a job.
- Check local job fairs: Keep an eye out for job fairs in your area, especially those tailored to young job seekers. These events can be a great opportunity to connect directly with employers and submit applications.
- Sign up for job alerts near you: One of the most efficient ways to find places that hire at 16 near you is to sign up for job alerts on OysterLink. Our user-friendly platform specializes in connecting young job seekers with employers who are eager to hire teenagers. By creating an account and setting up your preferences, you’ll receive instant notifications whenever new job openings become available in your desired location. This proactive approach ensures you never miss out on an opportunity that could kickstart your career.