Restaurants are expected to add a record amount of jobs this summer season, the result of the improving economy combined with consumers’ pent-up demand for the restaurant experience, predicts the National Restaurant Association. There are 508,000 jobs projected to be available, the second consecutive year the industry is adding more than half a million jobs during the summer season.

The projections reflect a positive summer outlook for most parts of the country, notes Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the NRA. “The increase in over half a million jobs for a second straight year has never happened before.”

Helping to drive the increase is a steady upward trend in international travelers to the U.S., which always adds positive impact to he industry, Grindy says. “We are also seeing an increase in travel domestically, as well. When families go to the beaches or national parks, they have to eat—restaurants are usually the beneficiaries of that.”

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news? Given the higher demand, restaurant operators are increasingly concerned about having enough staff. The NRA has noticed more operators who report recruiting and retraining employees as their top challenge.

“While food costs are still the top challenge, more operators are starting to report that it is more of a challenge to find employees,” Grindy says. “Now that we are coming into their biggest hiring season, that can potentially be a concern for some operators.”

Exacerbating the issue is the shrinking labor force participation rate among teenagers, who typically represent a majority of the seasonal employees in the summer. This is of particular concern if the restaurant is located in area with a shallow labor pool, Grindy says.

The states expecting to add the most industry jobs during the 2014 summer season are California (47,600), New York (46,300), Massachusetts (30,400), New Jersey (28,000), Texas (27,200), Ohio (22,400), and Michigan (21,600). 

The states projected to register the largest proportional employment increase during the 2014 summer season are Maine (33.2 percent increase), Alaska (21 percent increase), Delaware (18 percent increase), New Hampshire (16.5 percent increase), and Rhode Island (15.7 percent increase).

By Joann Whitcher

Industry News, Labor & Employees