In May of 2012, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) projected an overall job increase nearing 450,000 new jobs. According to the NRA, this is nearly a five percent increase from the previous projection made in March. There are nearly one million restaurants in the United States, and these businesses employ almost ten percent of the nation’s overall workforce. Behind the construction industry, restaurants are the top job creators in the entire nation.
Job Growth in the Food Service Industry
Restaurant employment growth tends to outpace the overall employment growth of the nation, and total job numbers for the food and beverage industry is at a record high. Here are a few reasons why:
- Restaurants typically increase employment opportunities in the summer months, during which younger workers are out of school, families take vacations, and businesses need increased help.
- Since 2010, over 500,000 restaurant positions have been added, from kitchen workers to corporate positions.
- The NRA projects even greater growth in the future, with up to 1.4 million in job creation in the next decade.
Chain Restaurants Doing Well
“Trendy” fast casual restaurant chains are particularly successful. They draw crowds that want a good meal without full-service prices, and appeal to young job-seekers. Brands like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread and Buffalo Wild Wings are all trading at or near all-time highs according to industry consulting firm, Technomic. What’s more, restaurants in this sector in particular are expected to see five to eight percent increases in sales during 2012.
Opportunities in Food Service
Part of the appeal of a job in the industry has to do with the abounding opportunities for employees. Working in a restaurant offers the chance to gain marketable skills and even achieve business ownership. According to NRA President Dawn Sweeney, “Whether in the kitchen or the corporate office, restaurants offer a variety of career paths, including one toward the American dream of entrepreneurship and owning your own business.” Success in the industry is never guaranteed. In fact, the restaurant business is notoriously risky. However, the industry’s growth rate is a good sign for independent restaurants and chains alike, as well as those hoping for long-term career success.
Employee Retention in a Volatile Economy
In order to keep restaurant employees in an industry known for high and frequent turnover, it’s important for managers to hire qualified, goal-driven workers, and to learn what motivates them.
Many workers are motivated by flexible hourly schedules, since many are in school or supporting families. Although some view restaurant work is an interim job rather than a career, managers who try to make employees feel welcome in jobs that offer consistent benefits and growth opportunities can make the work environment a place workers want to be.
If an employee is hesitant to leave a good job, even when the economy picks up, it’s an advantage for the restaurant as well as the employer. Research shows that, on average, people stay in food service jobs for 2 years. Should that number change to three years, restaurants could see significant savings in training and hiring costs, as well as improvements in service and efficiency.
American restaurant jobs play a vital role in the country’s economic growth. As restaurants provide significant employment opportunities to both seasonal and permanent workers, the outlook for elevated job growth and economic revival remains positive.