Restaurants and Food Services

Restaurants and Food Services


The restaurant and food service industry is an $899 billion industry in the United States. Restaurants and other food-service providers are so widespread that half of all adults have worked in food service in one way or another at some point in their lives. The food service industry encompasses any establishment that serves food to people outside their home. This includes restaurants, carryout operations, cafeterias, university dining halls, catering and vending companies, hotels and inns, and rehab and retirement centers.

This industry is divided into two groups: Those that prepare and serve food and those that produce and distribute food, equipment, and services needed by food providers. The most common example of the first group is restaurants. Restaurants employ front of the house people and back of the house people. The former includes bartenders, wait staff, hosts, and busboys. The latter includes chefs, cooks, managers, and dishwashers. Fast food restaurants limit their staff to food preparation people, managers, and cashiers. The trend of food trucks adds a mobile component to food service and requires just a few people to drive the truck, cook the food, and serve it through a window.

Examples of the second group, producers and distributors of food, equipment, and services, include equipment suppliers and food and beverage suppliers. Equipment suppliers are an example of a segment of the food service industry that does not deal directly with food. Salespeople inform owners and managers of the latest supplies and appliances. Food suppliers may represent a farm or a food production corporation. Their salespeople try to convince restaurants to use their products. Representatives from wineries and liquor companies work with restaurant chefs and bartenders to use their products in the restaurant.

Americans' increasingly hectic lifestyles make cooking at home a challenge, so the restaurant and food industry enjoys steady growth. U.S. restau...