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Employment Chefs Data and Statistics

Chefs, cooks and food preparation workers held nearly 3.1 million jobs in 2004. The distribution of jobs among the various types of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers was as follows:

Food preparation workers 889,000
Cooks, restaurant 783,000
Cooks, fast food 662,000
Cooks, institution and cafeteria 424,000
Cooks, short order 230,000
Chefs and head cooks 125,000
Cooks, private household 9,200

Nearly two-thirds of all chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers were employed in restaurants and other food services and drinking places. Almost one-fifth worked in institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals, and nursing care facilities. Grocery stores, hotels, gasoline stations with convenience stores, and other organizations employed the remainder.

Job openings for chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers are expected to be plentiful through 2014; however, competition should be keen for jobs in the top kitchens of higher end restaurants. While job growth will create new positions, primarily due to the expansion of family-casual dining, the overwhelming majority of job openings will stem from the need to replace workers who leave this large occupational group. Many chef, cook, and food preparation worker jobs are attractive to people seeking first-time or short-term employment, additional income, or a flexible schedule. Employers typically hire a large number of part-time workers and require minimal education and training for these lesser skilled entry-level positions. Many of these workers transfer to other occupations or stop working, creating numerous openings for those entering the field.

Overall employment of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations over the 2004-14 period. Employment growth will be spurred by increases in population, household income, and leisure time that will allow people to more often dine out and take vacations. In addition, the large number of two-income households will lead more families to opt for the convenience of dining out.

Projected employment growth, however, varies by specialty. The number of higher-skilled chefs and cooks working in full-service restaurants�those that offer table service and more varied menus�is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Much of the increase in this segment, however, will come from job growth in more casual dining, rather than up-scale full-service restaurants. Dining trends suggest increasing numbers of meals eaten away from home and growth in family dining restaurants, but greater limits on expense-account meals. Similarly, employment of food preparation workers will grow faster than the average reflecting diners desires for convenience as they shop for carryout meals in a greater variety of places�full-service restaurants, limited-service eating places, or grocery stores.

Employment of fast-food cooks is expected to grow about as fast as the average. Duties of cooks in fast-food restaurants are limited; most workers are likely to be combined food preparation and serving workers, rather than fast-food cooks. Employment of short-order cooks is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Short-order cooks may work a grill or sandwich station in a full-line restaurant, but also may work in lunch counters or coffee shops that specialize in meals served quickly.

Employment of institution and cafeteria chefs and cooks will show little or no growth. Their employment will not keep pace with the rapid growth in the educational and health services industries�where their employment is concentrated. In an effort to make �institutional food� more attractive to office workers, students, staff, visitors, and patients, offices, schools and hospitals increasingly contract out their food services. Employment of cooks, private household, however, is projected to decline, reflecting the general decline in private household service employment.

Employment of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers who prepare meals-to-go, such as those who work in the prepared foods sections of grocery or specialty food stores, should increase much faster than the average as people continue to demand quality meals and convenience. Similarly, much faster than average growth also is expected among those who work in contract food service establishments, such as those that provide catering services, and those who support employee dining rooms or staff hotel restaurants on a contract basis. These changes reflect a continuing trend among large establishments to contract out food services so they may better focus on their core business of running a hospital, hotel, factory or school. Also, there is a growing consumer desire for healthier, made-from-scratch meals without sacrificing the convenience of pre-packaged prepared foods or fast-food dining.

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