2016 National Restaurant Association Forecast: Workforce Outlook

Image: 2016 NRA Forecast

According to the National Restaurant Association, eating and drinking establishments added jobs at a rate of 3.2 percent in 2015. These jobs accounted for three-fourths of the total restaurant industry workforce. The information, published in the NRA’s 2016 Forecast report, also revealed the opportunities the restaurant industry offers the labor force in America, as well as the growth the industry is expected to experience.

Restaurant industry job openings - 2016 National Restaurant Association Forecast

In terms of the opportunities available to people who are new to the labor force, the restaurant industry is one of the most common landing spots. The NRA found that almost one-third of all adults in the United States say their first employment experience was in the restaurant and foodservice industry, and in 2015 restaurant operators reported that nearly 20% of their job openings were filled by people for whom the position was their first-ever regular job.

The limited-service segment was the most likely to hire new workers. Thirty percent of quickservice openings and 25% of fast-casual job openings went to people getting their first work experience, while approximately one in 6 jobs at family-dining and casual-dining restaurants went to first-time workers last year. Eight percent of job openings in the fine-dining segment went to people new to the workforce.

Not only does the industry employ many first-time workers, it also rewards loyalty and hard work with upward mobility. Many jobs were filled by people advancing from other positions within a restaurant. The NRA posits that these promotions were the direct result of the training they’ve received on the job and the knowledge they’ve gained while in their previous positions. Across the 5 major industry segments, roughly 20% of job openings available in 2015 were filled by people promoted from other jobs within the same restaurant business. The fast-casual segment was slightly ahead of the other categories at 23 percent, according to the NRA.

It is widely accepted that employment recovery in the United States began in March 2010. From that point to the end of 2015, nearly 2 million jobs were added by restaurants (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Clearly, the restaurant is the driving force behind the nation’s economic recovery.

Middle class growth - 2016 National Restaurant Association Forecast

During this recovery period, total US jobs increased by 10 percent, but restaurant jobs more than doubled that rate with growth of 21 percent. In addition to acting as the nation’s job growth leaders, the restaurant industry is adding middle class positions at a much greater rate than the overall economy. Middle class jobs were added by the restaurant industry at a rate of 4 times stronger than the overall economy during the recovery from the Great Recession, according to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Between 2010 and 2014 there was an increase of 32.7 percent in jobs within the industry that had annual incomes of between $45,000 and $74,999. In contrast, the total jobs in the economy with salaries in the same range experienced growth of just 8 percent. The restaurant and foodservice industry serves to strengthen the middle class in America.

The restaurant industry has experienced solid growth over the past few years, and it’s expected to experience steady employment gains well into the future. In 2016, the overall restaurant and foodservice industry is expected to provide a record 14.4 million jobs, and the NRA expects the restaurant and foodservice industry to provide 16.1 million jobs by 2026, an increase of 1.7 million jobs during the 10-year period. Furthermore, industry jobs that combine service and food prep have been projected to rise over 15% in the next 10 years, an increase of 504,000 jobs. 304,000 server jobs are also expected to be added, an increase of approximately 12 percent. 173,000 restaurant cook positions are expected to be added in over the next 10 years, a 15% increase, and chef and head cook positions should grow by 14 percent. Growth of nearly 15% is expected for first-line supervisor/managers of food prep and serving workers, an increase of 138,000 jobs. Foodservice manager positions are projected to grow by 12 percent. Business, administrative, financial, operational, and other non-foodservice jobs at eating and dining places are expected to grow by 7%, which represents 62,000 jobs.


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