Despite numerous similarities between the food retail sectors of France and the USA, there are significant contrasts in the jobs, and in particular the modal job, cashier. Notably, there are differences in pay, productivity and physical working position. Using the concept of ‘national-sectoral models’ of employment practices, this research draws on in-depth, interview-based case studies of food retailers in France and the USA, as well as standard data sources, to probe the reasons for these differences. Cross-national differences in wage-setting institutions, along with other institutional differences linked to family roles and disparate shopping cultures in the two countries, are key causes. These differences play out in interaction with distinct labour supply patterns, themselves based in part on differing institutions regarding reproduction of the labour force.