Have you ever worked in a restaurant? You’re in good company – almost 50 percent of Americans have worked in the restaurant industry at some point in their lives. In 2014, there were around 13.1 million Americans working in the restaurant industry according to restaurant.org, and that number is expected to increase 9.8 percent to 14.4 million by 2023.
To put those numbers in perspective, restaurants employ about 10 percent of the entire U.S. workforce, and it’s no surprise considering that this industry has a low barrier to entry and can be found just about everywhere. Even during the Great Recession, the restaurant industry weathered the downturn better than other sectors and reached pre-recession job levels by 2010.
With restaurant employment steadily on the rise, it’s impossible to not give some credit to the industry for helping the US finally reach weekly jobless claims of just 265,000 for the week ending January 24. That’s the lowest claims level since April 15, 2000 when it was 259,000.
In my view, lower gas prices may continue driving some of this employment expansion in the restaurant industry. CNBC recently released a story with research showing exactly where people are spending their gas savings. The number one area is restaurants. “Our data shows overall spending is up, consistent with our improving economy,” said Kasey Byrne, chief marketing officer for Cardlytics.
Spending at restaurants is growing pretty much across the board, but the restaurants with the most growth weren’t the fancy ones. Instead it was the quick service restaurants, otherwise known as fast food.
While CNBC has labeled fast food the winner, I have to wonder if it’s really fast casual that’s taking the lead. Over the last few years, as the economy has continued to strengthen, we’ve seen people moving away from fast food (McDonalds) in favor of fast casual (Chipotle). The trend is making waves – McDonalds recently reported another bad quarter for sales and promptly announced that they were changing CEOs.
There is a lot of speculation right now as to how McDonalds and fast food in general will handle the move from “yummy” to “yoga” (milkshakes to kale smoothies, hearty to healthy, fast to fresh) that Americans seem to be embracing. It seems clear to me, though, that while Americans are saving money at the gas pump, they’re also pumping those savings into higher quality restaurants in their community, and in turn supporting employment.
After all this food talk, I’m now hungry.
Tweet me your favorite restaurant or a place you think I should try @WesMoss365!
Certified financial planner Wes Moss offers financial and accessible investment advice to Atlanta Bargain Hunter readers.