The National Restaurant Association  reports that restaurants have added more than 560,000 jobs since the beginning of the employment recovery, with more than 200,000 of those positions created in the last six months.
As the nation’s second-largest private sector employer with a workforce of nearly 13 million–almost 10 percent of the U.S. workforce–the restaurant industry continues to be one of the strongest job creators in the nation and a pillar of the overall economy.
“The restaurant industry strongly contributes to the health of our nation’s economy by driving job growth across industry segments, and providing rewarding career and employment opportunities for millions,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “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.”
Restaurants added more than 100,000 jobs in two consecutive quarters for the first time on record, according to National Restaurant Association analysis of preliminary figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Eating and drinking places–the primary component of the restaurant industry, which accounts for roughly three-fourths of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce–added 103,100 jobs in the first quarter of 2012, which followed a gain of 101,400 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Since the employment recovery began in March 2010, eating and drinking places have added 562,600 jobs, with current industry staffing levels standing more than 180,000 jobs above the pre-recession peak.
As a result of the steady gains, restaurant job growth easily outpaced the overall economy in recent months.
In the 12 months ending March 2012, eating and drinking place employment jumped 3.2 percent, more than double the 1.5 percent increase in total U.S. employment during the same period.
In addition, 2012 marks the 13th consecutive year in which restaurant employment growth has outpaced overall employment growth in the United States.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s latest monthly Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey, job growth in the restaurant industry will likely continue in the months ahead.
Twenty-four percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), while just 7 percent said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months. The remaining 69 percent of restaurant operators expect their staffing levels to remain about the same.
The National Restaurant Association projects that the industry will add 1.4 million positions in the next decade, reaching 14.3 million. The fastest growing positions include supervisors and food-and-beverage-serving workers.
“Restaurants are the cornerstone of career and entrepreneurship opportunities,” Sweeney says. “Our industry prides itself on providing these opportunities to individuals of all backgrounds, plus ample opportunity for career advancement. Many of today’s industry leaders were yesterday’s hourly employees getting the first taste of their career on the front lines of food preparation and service.”
Eight in 10 restaurant owners got their first industry job at entry-level, and more than nine out of 10 managers started as hourly employees.
One-half of American adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives, and one out of three got their first job experience in a restaurant.
The restaurant industry in 2012 is expected to post sales reaching $632 billion in nearly one million restaurant and foodservice locations.
The majority of restaurants are small businesses, with 93 percent having fewer than 50 employees. The restaurant workforce skews younger, with 16- to 24-year-olds holding nearly four in 10 foodservice positions, and more than half of restaurant workers being under the age of 30.
Eating and drinking places (restaurants and bars) are the primary component of the restaurant and foodservice industry, which the National Restaurant Association defines as that which encompasses all meals and snacks prepared away from home.
To help develop high quality employees that will be the industry leaders of tomorrow, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart  program supports more than 90,000 high school students across the nation through culinary and restaurant management education.
Over the past 15 years, NRAEF has granted more than $14 million in scholarships to students and educators, giving them a jumpstart on successful careers.
The National Restaurant Association’s “America Works Here ” campaign illustrates the story of America’s restaurants through chapters highlighting the career and entrepreneurship opportunities the industry offers, as well as the industry’s professionalism and educational opportunities, and the positive impact restaurants make in local communities through philanthropic activities.