April 2, 2012 at 1:18 PM ET
For all you foodies hoping to land a gig in the glamorous restaurant industry in the months and years ahead, there will be plenty of jobs to be had. The problem is, many of the jobs don't come with a glamorous paycheck.
Spring and summer hiring in the restaurant sector is expected to be robust, barring any unforeseen issues such as skyrocketing gas prices, said Hudson Riehle, an economist and head of research for the National Restaurant Association, on Monday. Preliminary estimates for employment this summer are expected to top the 425,000 jobs the sector created last year, he said. The industry trade group will release an official summer hiring report in May or June.
“The restaurant industry added 530,000 jobs since the end of the recession, about 150,000 above the pre-recession peak,” he explained, adding that the growth pattern is exactly the opposite of national employment numbers, which are “still below pre-recession peaks.”
Annual job growth in the segment is projected to increase by 2.3 percent this year, up from a 1.9 percent uptick in 2011, according to a recent National Restaurant Association study.
The food service sector overall also is expected to remain strong for the next decade.
Food services and accommodation employment is projected to be the sixth biggest job generator through 2020, creating 1 million new jobs, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last month. But jobs in the food service sector, including everything from waiters to chefs, pay about $19,000 to less than $50,000 a year on the high end.
It’s good news that the sector is generating more jobs. But the growth of low-paying food service jobs that often don't come with health benefits or paid sick time, may not bode well for the overall health of the economy.
“They’re better than nothing but it’s bad for the economy that such low-wage jobs constitute the major share of new jobs being created in America during this so-called recovery,” said Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton and author of "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future".
The National Restaurant Association’s Riehle pointed out that nine out of 10 restaurant managers started out in hourly positions in the restaurant industry. And, he added, there are many jobs beyond lower-paying kitchen gigs, especially among large restaurant chains.
“Multi-unit restaurant operators that started in the 1960s and 1970s are global operations that have employment across the full spectrum, ranging form dish washers to chairman of the board, to accounting and IT functions,” he explained.
But the bulk of jobs, everyone acknowledged, are those most closely tied to the food and drinks.
Here’s a rundown from the BLS of the top food service jobs, what they pay, and the experience needed to land such positions: