Food service -- including independent and chain restaurants, as well as cafeterias in schools, hospitals and office buildings -- is one the largest industries in the US, with revenues of more than $600 billion in 2011, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). A key sector for food service is the fast-food restaurant industry. Fast food includes more than 200,000 restaurants with combined annual revenue of about $190 billion, according to Hoovers. Thousands of jobs in food service are found at Burger King, Chick-fil-A, McDonald's, Wendy's and YUM Brands. The fast-food industry is highly fragmented: The 50 largest companies account for about 20 percent of revenue.
Food-Service Job Market
More than 12 million food-service jobs were found in the industry in 2011, according to the NRA. Cooks held more than 2 million jobs in 2010, and the occupation is projected to add about 162,000 jobs from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There were more than 4 million food and beverage servers in 2010, and the forecast is for nearly 492,000 more of these food-service job opportunities by 2020. Jobs for food-service managers, by contrast, are expected to decline by 3 percent to 310,000 over the decade.
With Americans keeping a close eye on their wallets and waistlines in the 2010s, workers in restaurants jobs face sharp challenges. Restaurants and other establishments are creating food-service careers that give workers more direct responsibility for the unit's financial success -- whether by rewarding servers for upselling or compensating managers for improvements in quarterly results. From dishwashers to food and beverage directors, the food-service industry is looking for workers who are attuned to the ever-evolving tastes of customers and who understand how to profit from them. Some common positions in food-service employment are cook; server; dishwasher; restaurant manager; supervisor, manager or director of food services; and food and beverage services director.
Median annual wages were $18,300 for fast-food cooks, $42,350 for chefs and head cooks, and $48,110 for food-service managers in May 2011, the BLS reports. The top 10 percent of food-service managers earned more than $81,000.