Total restaurant industry jobs

Restaurants added 18,200 jobs in August

Restaurants expanded payrolls at a modest pace in August, providing additional evidence that the road to normal staffing levels remains long. Eating and drinking places* added a net 18,200 jobs in August on a seasonally-adjusted basis, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That was down from a gain of 77,500 jobs in July, and represented the smallest monthly increase since December 2020.  

Although August marked the 20th consecutive month of restaurant employment growth, the industry’s workforce recovery remains far from complete. As of August 2022, eating and drinking places were still 633,000 jobs – or 5.1% – below their pre-pandemic employment levels. No other industry has a longer road to reach a full employment recovery. 


2 in 3 restaurants are understaffed

While gradual progress is being made toward rebuilding the workforce, a majority of restaurants remain understaffed. In a National Restaurant Association survey fielded between July 14 and August 5, 65% of operators said their restaurant does not have enough employees to support its existing customer demand.

A majority of operators across each of the six major segments said their restaurant does not have enough employees to meet customer demand.

For most restaurants, staffing is significantly below necessary levels. Among restaurants that are currently understaffed, 62% of operators said their restaurant is more than 10% below necessary staffing levels. Twenty percent of these operators are more than 20% below necessary staffing levels. 


Limited-service segments surpassed pre-pandemic staffing levels

Although staffing levels rebounded from pandemic lows in each of the major restaurant segments, overall employment remains below pre-coronavirus readings in most categories. [Note that the segment-level employment figures are lagged by one month, so July is the most current data available.]

The fullservice segment suffered the most job losses during the initial months of the pandemic – and still has the longest path to recovery. As of July 2022, fullservice restaurant staffing levels were over 490,000 jobs (or 9%) below pre-coronavirus readings in February 2020. 

Job losses in the limited-service segments were somewhat less severe during the initial months of the pandemic, as these operations were more likely to retain staff to support their existing off-premises business. As of July 2022, staffing levels at snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars – including coffee, donut and ice cream shops – were 94,000 jobs (or 12%) above February 2020 readings.

The combined quickservice and fast casual segments surpassed pre-pandemic staffing levels by 15,000 jobs in July.

Other segments have a much longer road to reach pre-pandemic staffing levels. Employment counts in the cafeterias/grill buffets/buffets segment (-33%), foodservice contractor segment (-18%), catering and mobile foodservice segment (-11%) and bars and taverns segment (-8%) are still well below their February 2020 levels.         


Restaurant workforce recovery uneven across states

Restaurant employment trended steadily higher in recent months, but the extent of the industry’s workforce recovery varies significantly by state.

As of August 2022, eating and drinking place employment in 21 states surpassed their comparable pre-pandemic readings in August 2019. This group was led by South Dakota (+21%), Montana (+10%), Wyoming (+8%), Nevada (+6%), Utah (+6%), Texas (+5%) and Florida (+5%).

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia still had fewer eating and drinking place jobs in August 2022 than they did in August 2019. This group was led by Alabama and the District of Columbia, which had 10% fewer eating and drinking place jobs in August 2022 than they did in August 2019. 

Maryland (-8%), Hawaii (-8%), New York (-7%) and Alaska (-7%) were also well below their comparable pre-pandemic restaurant employment levels.     

View the latest employment data for every state. 

*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the total restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior to the coronavirus pandemic employed 12 million out of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce of 15.6 million.

Track more economic indicators and read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.