NEW YORK — The food service industry is fast becoming the biggest service industry in the U.S. economy, according to federal statistics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects nearly 2 million new jobs to be created in the food service industry by the mid-1990s, a 38% increase since 1982.
There is even some concern within the industry that its rapid growth could mean a shortage of hands to fill the jobs.
"The rapid growth of our industry means that we will outgrow our labor supply in a few years," said William P. Fisher, executive vice president of the National Restaurant Assn.
The U.S. Labor Department estimates that the hospitality industry--restaurants, hotels, motels, fast-food chains, commercial food purveyors and suppliers--will be short 1.1 million workers by 1995.
The hardest-hit businesses will be the ones that, like eating places, historically rely on young, low-wage workers to fill many of their slots.
Fast-food giants already have had to deal with the personnel crunch. Some have expanded recruitment drives.
Wendy's International Inc., headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, hunts for job-hungry retirees in senior citizen centers and shopping malls. McDonald's Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., formalized its longstanding practice of hiring senior citizens by introducing a McMasters program in some locations around the country.
A coalition of 15 national groups representing the industry held a news conference some months ago in an effort to persuade people that theirs is a good business to be in, where opportunities for career advancement abound.
They hope to get away from the idea that people hold jobs in restaurants and hotels until they can find something better and start a real career.
Why the rapid growth? For one thing, about 40% of every American dollar spent on food is now spent away from home. That translates into Americans eating out, on average, 3.7 times a week, or 192 times a year, according to National Restaurant Assn. figures.
Reasons for this include the fact that more and more women are working and fewer meals are prepared at home, as well as an increase in disposable income with which to dine elsewhere.
Jerry Vincent, program director for hospitality management at Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kan., said:
"The demand really started after World War II. It had been a custom for the wife to work, and they continued to work because they liked the income. As disposable income increased, people ate out more, and because of this more restaurants were required and more employees.
"Today's generation eats out three or four times a week. They don't even think about it. . . . Eating out is becoming a way of life for most people."
One estimate is that by 1990, one of every four meals eaten at home will be prepared elsewhere. Food service authorities say that people are staying at home more and entertaining at home--but they aren't cooking at home.
Where does the training come from?
A trend in the industry emphasizes some type of cooking school, either general two-year schools or such community colleges as Johnson or four-year colleges with courses in hotel and restaurant management, or special cooking schools like the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco or the National Cooking Institute in Denver.
While these schools emphasize the culinary aspects of the food business, there are several colleges and universities, such as the Academy of Food Marketing, a division of Philadelphia's St. Joseph's University, that offer bachelor of science degrees in food marketing.
There are also apprentice programs available, as well as entry-level openings that rely on on-the-job training.
The career jobs include restaurant chefs and cooks, hotel managers, caterers, institutional food planners, food writers, food stylists (preparing and arranging food for photographs, magazines and book layouts), and product developers.