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States with the most food service industry workers

  • States with the most food service industry workers

    Working in a restaurant is a rite of passage for many Americans. Fast food joints, chain restaurants, and local eateries offer entry-level jobs perfect for high school graduates or other first-time workers. Plus, the customer service experience gained working as a waiter or host can prove useful in almost any other job.

    Sure, it seems like nearly everyone you know has a story about their summer working at a local diner or drive-thru. But how common is that experience, really? Stacker compiled state-by-state statistics from the National Restaurant Association to find out; the data on the number of jobs is from 2019 and all other supplementary data is from 2018. All 50 states and the District of Columbia were ranked by the number of food service jobs per 100,000 people. For context, the national average was 4,809 per 100,000 people in 2019. It's important to note that these numbers, including projections, were determined prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Read on to find out which states offer the most restaurant and food service jobs, make the most in estimated restaurant sales, and how many offerings you can find at each locale.  

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    • #51. Colorado

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 3,228.14
      --- Total food service jobs: 185,900
      --- Food service locations: 12,031
      --- Estimated sales: $13.9 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 11.9% (#9 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 33,900

      Chipotle, Qdoba, Smashburger, Noodles & Company, Red Robin, and several other nationally known restaurant chains started in Colorado. By 2029, it is projected that there will be 319,800 restaurant and food service jobs in the state. 

    • #50. New Jersey

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 3,921.33
      --- Total food service jobs: 348,300
      --- Food service locations: 19,050
      --- Estimated sales: $18.1 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 6.9% (#43 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 24,100

      In a state with a long-time love for sub sandwiches, it's no wonder that nationally known companies like Blimpie and Jersey Mike's were founded in New Jersey. There will be an estimated 374,400 jobs in the industry by 2029

    • #49. Arkansas

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,012.85
      --- Total food service jobs: 121,100
      --- Food service locations: 5,288
      --- Estimated sales: $4.9 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 9.1% (#26 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 11,000

      Arkansas doesn't have the booming food industry as other states with just 5,288 food service locations statewide in 2018. Nevertheless, a few local companies like Shake's Frozen Custard have found success operating in the state.  

    • #48. West Virginia

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,045.43
      --- Total food service jobs: 72,500
      --- Food service locations: 3,291
      --- Estimated sales: $2.8 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 7.3% (#39 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 5,300

      West Virginia has its fair share of local chains, like the colorfully named Tudor's Biscuit World and Gino's Pizza and Spaghetti. In 2019, restaurant and food service jobs made up about 10% of employment in West Virginia.

    • #47. Utah

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,051.83
      --- Total food service jobs: 129,900
      --- Food service locations: 5,264
      --- Estimated sales: $5.5 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 13% (#8 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 16,900

      Utah-based chains like Hogi Yogi, Crown Burgers, and Arctic Circle Restaurants employ lots of locals, but the Beehive State doesn't offer many food service jobs overall. By 2029, Utah is expected to have 146,800 food service jobs. 

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    • #46. Idaho

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,062.53
      --- Total food service jobs: 72,600
      --- Food service locations: 3,385
      --- Estimated sales: $2.9 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 11.8% (#10 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 8,600

      Idaho, which employs fewer food industry workers per 100,000 people than the national average, is known for potatoes, but that's not all the state's restaurants cook up for hungry patrons. Canadian-born chain Pita Pit houses its U.S. headquarters in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

    • #45. Alabama

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,070.82
      --- Total food service jobs: 199,600
      --- Food service locations: 8,620
      --- Estimated sales: $9 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 10.8% (#15 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 21,600

      Known for its savory barbecue, fried chicken, and other Southern delicacies, Alabama offered almost 200,000 jobs in the food service industry in 2019, 10% of the state's employment. Local companies like Dreamland Bar-B-Que and Foosackly's make up some of those jobs.  

    • #44. Mississippi

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,095.90
      --- Total food service jobs: 121,900
      --- Food service locations: 4,881
      --- Estimated sales: $5.1 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 10.2% (#19 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 12,400

      When visiting Mississippi, some of the state's most popular bites—Mississippi mud pie, barbecue, biscuits, fried chicken, and crawfish—are must-have meals. In 2029, the state is projected to offer 134,300 total jobs in the restaurant industry

    • #43. Arizona

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,267.24
      --- Total food service jobs: 310,600
      --- Food service locations: 10,281
      --- Estimated sales: $14.7 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 15.1% (#2 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 46,900

      Beloved national chains like Cold Stone Creamery and P.F. Chang's are based in Arizona, but the state still doesn't have a huge food service industry. In 2019, 11% of Arizona's employment was within the restaurant industry. 

    • #42. Maryland

      - Food service jobs per 100k people: 4,284.05
      --- Total food service jobs: 259,000
      --- Food service locations: 11,357
      --- Estimated sales: $13.3 billion
      - Projected 10-year growth: 8.1% (#31 in the country)
      ---Projected additional jobs: 21,100

      While Maryland-based restaurants like Jerry's Subs & Pizza, Ledo Pizza, and Stuckey's employ a fair amount of locals, the number of food service industry jobs in the Free State is still well below the national average.

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