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National Restaurant Association - Looking for work? Try these 5 states

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Looking for work? Try these 5 states

The restaurant industry will continue to drive employment growth with Arizona, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Utah expected to lead the way, the National Restaurant Association’s 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast reports.

According to the Forecast, Arizona is projected to post a close to 24 percent restaurant job increase and Florida and Texas each is projected to post over 22 percent gains over the 10-year period from 2015 to 2025. Georgia and Utah are expected to grow 21 percent.

“Restaurant industry job growth will continue to advance at a solid pace this year,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research. “In fact, we predict it will outpace overall job growth for the 16th straight year in 2015 and that restaurants will add 1.7 million new positions over the next 10 years. While all 50 states and the District of Columbia will see their restaurant industry workforce expand during the next decade, states in the southern and western regions will continue to set the pace.”

Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, says recent restaurant expansion resulting from the economic turnaround will drive job creation throughout the state.

“Arizona’s dining scene is changing dramatically,” he notes. “That, plus the improvement in the economy and growth in our population are the reasons for the increase in job creation.”

As a result, restaurants need more workers, and operators will have to work harder to maintain their workforce, he says. “We’ll be sitting in the shotgun seat for some time where job creation is concerned.”

As the economy heats up, restaurants looking to grow their employee base should be patient and judicious during the hiring process, says NRA board member Louis Basile, president and CEO of Phoenix-based Wildflower Bread Co. That will ensure they select the best candidates.

“As business continues to grow, hiring is going to be harder and harder,” he says. “We’re really going to have to look hard for great folks to work in our restaurants.”

Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, says many of the state’s restaurants and other small businesses experienced flat sales and job growth during the recession and sluggish recovery. But the economic outlook appears to be on the upswing.

“So much of Georgia’s economy was built on home sales, but today it is much more diversified,” she says. “That, plus a recent spike in our population – we’ve gone from No. 10 in the U.S. to No. 8 – as well as the recent drop in the price of gas, has led to more consumers dining out. As a result, we’ve had a record number of restaurants open this year and last.”

But with the increase in restaurant openings, staffing has become a challenge for operators.

“Finding qualified staff to open fullservice and upscale restaurants is more challenging for a lot of owners. People are taking a longer time to find and hire [qualified] employees, so we’re advising members to start the recruitment process a little earlier than they had done previously,” she says.

In Florida, the 30-hour full-time employment provision of the Affordable Care Act could be a great challenge for operators planning to hire new employees this year, says John Horne, owner of Bradenton-based Anna Maria Oyster Bar restaurants.

“No change to the definition could be the biggest crisis we face,” he says. “We know what those costs look like today, but we don’t know what they’ll be like tomorrow. So far, we’re continuing to hire. We increased our staff by nearly 6 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2013. We hope that trend will continue.”

Purchase the 2015 Restaurant Industry Forecast here.

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