The restaurant industry is not only an important source of jobs and careers, it is vitally important to the success of many other industries in the economy. As McDonald’s celebrates its National Hiring Day by adding up to 50,000 individuals to its roster, the National Restaurant Association has compiled a report of its research on the latest restaurant industry employment trends and the unique upward mobility that the industry offers.

The restaurant industry employs nearly 10 percent of the U.S. workforce at 12.8 million this year, making it the second-largest private sector employer in the U.S. Every $1 million spent in restaurants generates an additional 34 jobs in the national economy. In addition, every restaurant job supports almost a full job position elsewhere in the economy; essentially any industry that is associated with the operation of a restaurant enjoys increases in employment when the restaurant industry grows. 

While many industries have shed jobs in recent years, the restaurant industry has remained a jobs and careers machine. During the challenging economic period of the last 11 years that included two recessions, there were 266,000 fewer total jobs in the economy in February 2011 than there were in January 2000. In contrast, eating-and-drinking places, which account for roughly three-fourths of the total restaurant-and-foodservice workforce, added 1.3 million jobs during the same period. Overall, restaurant industry job growth outperformed the overall economy in each of the last 11 years.

Over the long-term, the restaurant industry is projected to post steady growth well into the future. By 2021, the restaurant industry is expected to add 1.3 million positions.

The restaurant industry is projected to register steady growth across most occupations during the next decade. Positions that combine both food preparation and service are expected to increase by 403,000 by 2021, while waitstaff jobs are expected to grow by 240,000 during the same period. The industry is also projected to add 122,000 chef and head cook positions in the next 10 years.

The restaurant industry is also projected to add 27,000 foodservice managers between 2011 and 2021—an increase of nearly 8 percent. During the same 10-year period, the number of first-line supervisors and managers of food-preparation and-serving workers is expected to increase by 102,000, or more than 12 percent. 

A hallmark of the restaurant industry is the ability of entry-level employees to find upward mobility into management positions. In fact, nine out of 10 salaried employees in restaurants got their start as hourly employees.

The restaurant industry also employs more minority managers than any other industry, and has a broader representation of minorities and women in management positions than the overall economy. Forty-seven percent of foodservice managers are women, compared with only 38 percent among all management occupations in the economy. Nine percent of foodservice managers are black or African-American, compared with just 6 percent of all management occupations; 15 percent are of Hispanic origin, nearly twice as high as the 8 percent of all management occupations; and 11 percent are Asian, nearly three times their 4 percent overall representation.

Not only do restaurants provide opportunities for upward mobility, they also give individuals the experience to own restaurants of their own. In fact, 80 percent of restaurant owners said their first job in the restaurant industry was an entry-level position.

Restaurant employees also feel strongly that the industry offers significant opportunities for advancement and entrepreneurship. Eighty-eight percent of restaurant employees said restaurants provide the chance to work up the career ladder from entry-level job to management, and a strong majority of restaurant employees (81 percent) agree that the restaurant industry offers people of all backgrounds and experience the opportunity to become business owners.

Industry News, NextGen Casual