Texas leads nation in number of open restaurant jobs

man standing and holding plate
Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Those nachos not coming to your table quite as fast as they once did? No surprise as Texas leads the nation in the number of most open restaurant industry jobs.

Texas restaurant operators have been hit hard, with 81% having to lay off or furlough employees last year. That leaves a sizable gap to fill as they look to recover. Applicants in the Lonestar State have their choice of 80.3 open jobs per 100,000 residents, making it very competitive for owners.

The report comes from Next Insurance, a mobile-first insurance carrier based in Palo Alto, California. To determine the best states for restaurant jobs, Next  collected data for seven factors associated with food service employment in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Each factor was weighted based on its contribution to a city’s overall opportunity for food service workers. Ranking factors were: Median Income of State Population, State of Dining-in and Reopening, Employment for “Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations” Per 100K Residents, Mean Hourly Wage for “Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations,” Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers, Number of Open Restaurant Jobs Per 100K Residents and June 2021 Restaurant Employment Compared to June 2019 Restaurant Employment.

Cities could earn 50 points. Cities with higher scores are considered better for food service professionals, and cities with lower scores are considered worse.

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One of the fastest-growing states, Colorado took the No. 1 spot, boasting high hourly wages ($15.07) and significant jobs to fill (43.5 open jobs per 100,000 residents). Higher wages are likely attributed to residents voting for a scheduled minimum wage increase in 2016. While attractive for food service workers, this increase has put a strain on owners, who are increasingly turning to service charges to help offset higher operational costs.

Arizona and Nevada join Colorado in western states among the top 10. Arizona offers food service workers one of the highest hourly wages in the ranking, at $15.19 per hour. Nevada is second only to Washington, D.C., in current food service employment, with 4,665 food service employees per 100,000 residents. Like Colorado, both states implemented a scheduled minimum wage increase in recent years.

The nation’s capital leads the country in both mean hourly wages and current industry employment. In Washington, D.C., servers, cooks and bartenders can make an average of $20.15 an hour. With food service jobs making up 8% of the city’s employment and significant earning potential, owners contend with a crowded and competitive labor market.

Restaurant owners across the South face similar challenges to Texas in terms of regaining their staff. Despite booming business demand, operators are taking creative measures to work within their limitations. This includes limiting operating hours, continuing curbside operations, and offering signing bonuses. Food service workers in KentuckyMississippi and Tennessee join Texas for the most available food service jobs.

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While Midwestern states round out the rest of the top 10, Delaware is the lone Northeast standout. According to Delaware’s restaurant association, 87% of restaurants are operating with inadequate staffing despite 100% of operators increasing their wages this year — with over half increasing wages more than 10%.  

Interested in seeing what the job situation is like in your state? Explore the interactive map below by searching for individual states or clicking on the map to view the number of open restaurant jobs per 100,000 residents.

Food service applicants may be more interested in pay than myriad employment opportunities. Industry workers seeking high-paying roles might consider employment in Hawaii, where the mean hourly wage of $19.61 is second only to Washington, D.C.

New YorkMassachusetts and California also compensate food service professionals at higher rates, perhaps to account for higher costs of living. In fact, seven out of the ten states on this list contain some of the most expensive cities in America, accounting for the higher compensation rates. 

And while Arizona and Colorado may not have higher costs of living compared to the other states, the previously mentioned wage increases boost their mean hourly wages. Vermont also has a scheduled minimum wage increase, making these three states attractive to applicants.