Food Service Jobs For Felons (2024 Guide)


In today’s society, individuals with a criminal record often face significant barriers when seeking employment. However, the food service industry offers a ray of hope for those looking to rebuild their lives after incarceration.

We’ll delve into the realm of food service jobs for felons, exploring the various opportunities, top companies, earning potential, as well as the pros and cons associated with such employment.

What Are Food Service Jobs?

Food service jobs encompass a wide range of roles within the hospitality sector, including positions in restaurants, cafes, fast-food chains, catering services, and institutional food service.

These roles can vary from entry-level positions such as dishwashers, food preparers, and servers to more specialized roles like chefs, sous chefs, and kitchen managers.

Food Service Job Options

Entry-Level Positions: Dishwasher, busser, server assistant, and food preparer roles are commonly available for individuals with little to no prior experience.

Culinary Roles: With appropriate training and experience, felons can pursue careers as line cooks, chefs, and sous chefs.

Management Opportunities: Some companies offer advancement pathways for employees to grow into management positions, such as kitchen manager or restaurant manager.

Entrepreneurship: Felons with a passion for food and culinary skills may explore entrepreneurship by starting their own food truck, catering business, or small restaurant.

Top Food Service Companies to Work For

Several food service companies have adopted more inclusive hiring practices, providing opportunities for individuals with criminal records.

Some of the top companies in this regard include:

Starbucks: The coffee giant has committed to hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds through its “Second Chance” program.

Chipotle Mexican Grill: Chipotle has a history of hiring ex-offenders and offers opportunities for career growth within the company.

Dave’s Killer Bread: This Oregon-based bakery actively seeks to employ individuals with criminal backgrounds, inspired by the founder’s own journey of rehabilitation.

The Cheesecake Factory: Known for its diverse workforce, The Cheesecake Factory has been open to hiring individuals with criminal records.

Bon Appétit Management Company: As a food service provider for corporations, universities, and museums, Bon Appétit has embraced inclusive hiring practices.

How Much Do Food Service Jobs Pay?

The earning potential in food service jobs for felons can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and position. Entry-level positions may start at minimum wage or slightly above, while skilled roles like chefs or kitchen managers can command higher salaries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for food preparation and serving-related occupations was $12.43 in May 2020.

Do You Need A Background Check To Get A Food Service Job?

In the realm of food service work opportunities, background checks are commonly conducted by employers, but the extent and stringency of these checks can vary.

While not all positions in the food service industry require background checks, many employers opt to perform them, especially for roles that involve handling cash, serving alcohol, or working in sensitive environments such as healthcare or institutional catering.

The necessity for background checks in food service jobs often depends on the employer’s policies, industry regulations, and the specific requirements of the position. For example, positions that involve handling food or interacting with vulnerable populations may have stricter background check requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of customers or clients.

Background checks in food service jobs typically involve screening for criminal history, including convictions and pending charges. Employers may also check for other relevant information such as employment history, education credentials, and professional licenses or certifications.

While having a criminal record can pose challenges in securing certain food service jobs, especially those with strict background check requirements, it does not necessarily disqualify individuals from employment.

Many employers consider factors such as the nature and severity of the offense, how much time has passed since the conviction, and evidence of rehabilitation when making hiring decisions.

Overall, while background checks are common in the food service industry, the specific requirements can vary widely depending on the employer and the nature of the position.

Individuals with criminal records seeking employment in food service should be prepared to undergo background checks and may benefit from being transparent about their past and demonstrating their readiness for employment through their skills, experience, and commitment to rehabilitation.

Pros and Cons of Food Service Jobs for Felons


Entry Opportunities: Food service jobs often have lower barriers to entry, making them accessible to individuals with limited work experience.

Skill Development: Employees can develop valuable culinary and customer service skills that are transferable to other industries.

Supportive Environment: Some companies offer support programs and mentorship for employees with criminal backgrounds, aiding in their rehabilitation and integration into society.

Flexible Schedules: Many food service jobs offer flexible schedules, accommodating individuals with diverse needs and obligations.


Limited Advancement: While advancement opportunities exist, felons may face challenges in progressing to higher-paying or managerial roles due to their criminal history.

Low Wages: Entry-level positions in the food service industry often come with low wages, which may not provide sufficient income for financial stability.

Stigma and Discrimination: Despite efforts towards inclusivity, individuals with criminal records may still encounter stigma and discrimination in the hiring process or workplace.

Physically Demanding: Food service jobs can be physically demanding, requiring long hours on one’s feet and exposure to high-stress environments.

How to Look for a Food Service Job

Research Inclusive Employers: Identify companies with a history of hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds, such as those mentioned earlier.

Network: Leverage personal and professional networks to learn about job opportunities and receive referrals.

Prepare a Strong Resume: Highlight relevant skills, experiences, and achievements that demonstrate your suitability for the role.

Consider Training Programs: Explore culinary training programs or vocational courses to enhance your skills and qualifications.

Be Honest and Transparent: During the application process, be honest about your criminal record and emphasize your commitment to rehabilitation and personal growth.

Is It Worth It For A Felon To Look For A Food Service Job?

Food service jobs offer a promising avenue for individuals with criminal records to reintegrate into society, gain meaningful employment, and rebuild their lives.

While challenges exist, inclusive hiring practices and supportive workplace environments can provide felons with opportunities for personal and professional development.

By leveraging available resources, networking, and showcasing their skills and determination, individuals with criminal backgrounds can pursue fulfilling careers in the food service industry.

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