Americans love to eat out! Sales in food service grew from $632 billion in 2012 to $898 billion in 2022, according to National Restaurant Association data, and are expected to approach $1 trillion this year.
It takes millions of workers to prepare, serve and deliver meals in restaurants, businesses and schools; in fact, there were about 13.9 million people employed in food service occupations in 2022. And as demand for food service grows, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for these occupations will increase by about half a million jobs from 2022 to 2032.
When taking into account workers who leave these occupations and need to be replaced, we project there will be an average of 2.6 million job openings each year within food service occupations through 2032. For National Food Service Employee Day on Sept. 25, here’s a look at some of the occupations in food service projected to grow from 2022 to 2032, by number of annual job openings. None of them require more than a high school diploma or equivalent.
Fast food and counter workers are employed primarily by limited-service restaurants, cafeterias and snack bars at which customers generally order and pay before eating. These workers take food and beverage orders, prepare or retrieve items, and accept payment. They also heat food items and make salads and sandwiches.
Number of jobs, 2022: 3,410,100
Projected growth, 2022-32: 1.5% (As fast as average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 789,300
Cooks at restaurants prepare a variety of dishes, usually by individual order, in eating establishments. Some restaurant cooks order supplies and help maintain the stock room.
Number of jobs, 2022: 1,361,200
Projected growth, 2022-32: 20.4% (Much faster than average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 252,400
First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers supervise and coordinate workers preparing food.
Number of jobs, 2022: 1,221,700
Projected growth, 2022-32: 4.9% (Faster than average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 188,900
Bartenders mix drinks and serve them directly to customers or through wait staff.
Number of jobs, 2022: 641,300
Projected growth, 2022-32: 3.3% (As fast as average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 113,500
Dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers — sometimes collectively referred to as bus staff — help waiters, waitresses and bartenders by cleaning and setting tables, removing dirty dishes and stocking serving areas with supplies. They also may help waiters and waitresses by bringing meals from the kitchen, distributing dishes to diners, filling water glasses and delivering condiments.
Number of jobs, 2022: 459,200
Projected growth, 2022-32: 4.2% (As fast as average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 89,100
Cooks at institutions and cafeterias work in the kitchens of schools, cafeterias, businesses, hospitals, and other establishments. They typically prepare a large quantity of entrees, vegetables and desserts according to preset menus. However, they sometimes customize meals, such as for diners’ dietary considerations.
Number of jobs, 2022: 434,500
Projected growth, 2022-32: 2.1% (As fast as average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 66,600
Driver/sales workers deliver takeout food from restaurants.
Number of jobs, 2022: 541,000
Projected growth, 2022-32: 7.7% (Faster than average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 62,500
Food servers (non-restaurant) provide food to customers outside a restaurant environment. For example, they may deliver room-service orders in hotels or meals to hospital rooms. Some work as carhops at venues such as drive-in movie theaters, bringing orders to customers in parked cars.
Number of jobs, 2022: 258,600
Projected growth, 2022-32: 3.1% (As fast as average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 43,700
Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants and other places where food is served.
Number of jobs, 2022: 174,400
Projected growth, 2022-32: 5.3% (Faster than average)
Occupational openings, 2022-32 annual average: 22,000
Bill Lawhorn is an economist in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Follow BLS on X/Twitter at @BLS_gov.