There has been a lot of talk lately about the number of restaurants slated to open not just in Dallas, but across the U.S. Thoughts on whether this is a good or a bad thing for the Dallas economy are divided. Many folks, especially developers, are counting future dollars. Others, including seasoned restaurant operators, are scared out of their calabash gourds. I tend to fall in line with the doomsayers. I can’t see how restaurateurs are going to staff these new restaurants, especially those up North.
Almost 1 million square feet of restaurant space is slated to open near the intersection of Highway 121 and the Tollway. That’s a lot of seats that need to turn over at least twice a night. José Andrés, the affable, talented fingers-in-everything chef, is scheduled to open Zaytinya Restaurant, a 250-seat restaurant at “The Star” in Frisco. Somebody should get Andrés on the phone and let him know what he is buying into. Developers are selling the area as a pot of gold.
The larger question is this: How are these new owners going to lure dishwashers, cooks, chefs, servers, and bussers who don’t live in the area to travel there? A local chain restaurant operator told me his highest grossing “store” near Frisco was not making money because his labor costs are so high. The end is beginning before the run has begun.
Last night, I ran across two stories on the restaurant industry workforce on the National Restaurant Association website. Both used statistics provided by Bruce Grindy, the NRA’s chief economist. One story noted:
While the tightening labor market is playing a significant role in the labor challenges currently being felt across many sectors in the economy, the restaurant industry has also been impacted by some longer-term structural changes in the nation’s labor force. Most notably among these developments was the sharp and steady decline in the teenage labor pool.
At its peak in the late 1970s, roughly 58 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds were in the labor force, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This participation rate remained above 50 percent until 2001, when it started trending downward. The trend accelerated during the Great Recession, with the teen labor force participation rate falling below 35 percent by 2010.
So, who is going to take the place of teenagers?
According to Grindy’s numbers, it’s going to be senior citizens. Older adults, now a small proportion of the restaurant workforce, are “the fastest growing demographic group in recent years. The number of adults 55 or older working in the restaurant industry jumped 51 percent between 2007 and 2016, an increase of 290,000 individuals.” I’d like to see the stats on the increased sales of support stockings.
Grindy doesn’t stop there: “Looking inside this demographic, the 65-plus cohort is expected to offer the greatest opportunity for continued growth in the years ahead. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that an additional 4 million adults 65 or older will enter the labor force by the year 2024. This is expected to be the largest source of labor force growth among any of the age cohorts.”
Holy hammer toe! Typing this makes my feet ache.