BRANSON MO NEWS: Jeff Hodges, owner of Springdale-based restaurant chain Foghorn’s, has never seen so many new restaurants opening locally with a labor pool so small.
“My first reaction when I hear of a new [restaurant] opening is, ‘Where are they finding 50 employees?’ They just aren’t there,” he said.
A recent survey of local food service jobs on Indeed.com lists more than 1,000 full- and part-time job opportunities in Northwest Arkansas. The number of food and drinking establishments, the No. 3 growth industry in Northwest Arkansas, is projected to increase 5.45% between 2016 and 2018, according to the 2017 Arkansas Labor Market and Economic Report.
A NATIONAL TRENDIt’s a perfect storm all across the country. Americans are eating out more, and the restaurant business is growing. But the labor market is tight. Americans spend 44 cents per dollar of their food budget eating out, up from 39 cents in 1996, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
In July 2018, restaurant sales were up 5.8% for the previous three months, the strongest three-month gain in more than 30 years. Restaurant industry sales are estimated to be $800 billion this year, or 4% of the GDP. Restaurants employ 15.1 million people, or 10% of the nation’s workforce, as the second largest private sector employer behind retail.
Restaurants continue to open across the country, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting there were 635,677 establishments for the first quarter of this year, a growth of 16,223 restaurants from the same time in 2017.
Finding employees to staff restaurants is a top challenge for owners, according to the National Restaurant Association’s website. With a strong economy, the lowest unemployment in years at 3.9%, and more young people pursuing higher education and better paying jobs, restaurant owners find it harder to find qualified employees to fill vacant restaurant positions.
“The workforce is becoming more educated, specialized and selective when it …
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