Restaurants: A Job Engine for USA + Ohio … and a Place to Build a Career

If you want to know how America’s economy is doing, take a look at the restaurant industry. Across the USA, there are about 1 million restaurants and food-service locations, including 22,000 in Ohio.

With this size, we're a bell-weather of business conditions. In 2017, restaurants generated nearly $800 billion dollars in sales, which is about 4% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Sales in Ohio are about $21 billion dollars on an annual basis.

We're also an engine for jobs as the nation’s second-largest private sector employer. By the end of 2017, the restaurant industry employed 14.7 million people – or, about one in 10 working Americans – which is 10% of the nation’s workforce.

The great news is the industry is expected to add 1.6 million jobs over the next decade, according to the National Restaurant Association, with employment reaching 16.3 million people by 2027. In Ohio, the NRA expects jobs to grow about 9% to 628,000.

Our industry not only employs general managers, chefs, cooks, hosts, servers and part-time workers, we also employ and support every function that a business needs – attorneys, accountants, finance professionals, auditors, information technology and digital experts, marketers, research and development technicians, plus experts in culinary, food safety, quality assurance and more.

While many restaurants are part of national chains, more than 70% are what we call “mom-n-pop” operators, with just one location in cities and towns across the U.S. and Ohio. This is truly a diverse industry that offers tremendous opportunity for people at every level of the economy.

As most people know, restaurants offer first jobs, but they also offer upward mobility and growth. If you do the basics of showing up on time, treating people right, doing your job well and working hard, often the job turns into a rewarding career.

Here are some wonderful facts:

1 in 3 Americans got their first job experience in a restaurant.
Half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives.
9 in 10 restaurant managers started in entry-level positions, and climbed the ladder of success.

Since 2012:
Women-owned restaurant businesses have increased by 40%.
Hispanic–owned businesses increased by 51%
African-American owned businesses increased by 49%

And finally, once people enter the restaurant industry they tend to fall in love with making great food, providing hospitality and being part of a successful business.

Many restaurant professionals say they have “ketchup in their veins." Here are a few facts:

80% of current restaurant employees believe the restaurant industry is a place where people of all backgrounds can open their own business.

8 out of 10 employees believe restaurants provide an opportunity for people who want to succeed, based on their own hard work.

2 out of 3 current employees plan to continue working in the restaurant industry until they retire.

I remember helping my parents at their restaurant nearly 50 years ago when I was just a kid. They owned and operated the Rustic Lounge with help from family members and friends.

I worked in many other industries over the years, but was fortunate to land at The Wendy’s Company in 1995 while Dave Thomas was our Senior Chairman of the Board. I stayed there 17 years and fell in love with the restaurant business all over again.

Today, I'm still in love with an industry that thrives on hospitality, and I get to work with fantastic people at the ORA, as well as our members and vendors all over the Buckeye state.