The Who’s Better Off Game:Food Service Workers

So, why did the Bush administration want to reclassify fast food workers and other restaurant employees as manufacturing workers? Probably because food service employment has defied the national trend — growing at a steady clip since 2000. Of course, that growth means little when wages remain among the lowest in the nation, and real income has actually declined…


Over the past few years, economic cynics have suggested that the only jobs being created are at fast food joints. They’re wrong. Fast food joints have been cutting jobs. And wages.

Food preparation and serving jobs have evaporated in the weak economy, including those for fast food burger-flippers and order-takers. Between mid 2000 and mid 2003, nearly 117,000 food service workers lost their jobs. And those who remained employed have ended up earning less — about .5 percent less, in real income. What’s more, the average salary for the nation’s 1.65 million food service workers remains among the lowest in the country at just $14,000 a year.

Restaurant managers have done better. Not only have management jobs been created over the past four years — nearly 75,000 between 2000 and 2003 — but wages have increased by more than 3 percent. Still, that wage increase doesn’t go a long way. The average salary for restaurant managers remains at less than $27,000 a year.