Over the next decade, restaurant job opportunities are set to explode across the spectrum. The industry is expected to add more than 400,000 food-preparation and serving positions between now and 2024.
The National Restaurant Association’s research also anticipates growth in the following positions:
Cooks: 209,000 cook positions.
First-line supervisors and managers of food preparation and serving workers: : 107,000.
Yet the better it gets for employees, the tougher it gets for restaurants to find the right people.
In many parts of the country, employees have the advantage over employers. Last year, more than 120 restaurants opened in Washington, D.C., which has led to a talent crunch.
“Treat your staff well because they do have options,” says Josh Hahn, operating partner of EatWell DC restaurant group. “These days, anyone worth their salt will be measuring you up as much as you’re measuring them up. They will have multiple job offers, so you have to deliver as an employer.”
To retain quality staff, Hahn and his partners created a program to rewards longer-term servers with pay raises, deeper discounts on in-restaurant dining and group outings. For the back of the house, EatWell DC looks to retain staff through pay raises.
“We have dishwashers and cooks who have been there for up to eight years, which is great for us because they are consistent and you know they’ll show up,” says Hahn. “It does put a strain on our labor costs, because you’re paying someone $16 or $17 an hour when you could hire a young gun for $12 an hour. But it pays off when you look at the big picture.”
For employees, sticking with the restaurant industry offers a rich career that can span their entire professional lives. About seven of 10 restaurant employees say they’ll likely continue working in the industry until they retire.
“In years past, there was a perception that restaurant work wasn’t a lifetime career, but that’s changing,” says Hubert Van Hoof, Penn State University School of Hospitality Management. “Now it’s seen as a long-term profession where you can make a good living and find true success.”