Related BLS programs | Related articles
August 1994, Vol. 117, No. 8
Occupational wages in the fast-food restaurant industry
Robert W. Van Giezen
The fast-food restaurant has been one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Over the past 20 years, it has accounted for a larger proportion of food budgets, reflecting, among other reasons, greater spending power and changing lifestyles prompted by increasing participation of women in the labor force and the rise of one-person households. In the 1970's, fast-food restaurants sales expanded an average of 20 percent annually before "slowing" to 10 percent in the 1980's.1 The industry has grown to more than 100,000 stores and $60 billion in annual sales.1 Fast-food businesses now constitute more than 40 percent of the Nation's restaurants.2
Employment also has grown rapidly; fast-food restaurants employ more than 2.3 million workers - more than 40 percent of the nearly 60 million employees who work at eating places.3 Fast-food restaurants rely heavily for their work force on teenagers and others with little work experience, or those looking for part-time employment. Nearly 70 percent of employees are 20 years or younger, and the average work week is 29.5 hours. Turnover is high, with only a little more than half the work force remaining 1 year or longer. An analysis of the turnover rate among employees in fast-food restaurants reveals that 75 percent of employees remain 6 months, 53 percent remain 1 year, 25 percent stay 2 years; only 12 percent remain 3 years of longer. In addition, nearly two-thirds of employees are women, and 23 percent are nonwhite.4 For many teenagers, a fast-food restaurant is their first work experience. For example, one researcher has estimated that the first job for 1 in 15 workers in the United States was at a McDonald's restaurant.5
Average earnings for fast-food workers ranged from $4.33 an hour in Puerto Rico to $5.70 in Honolulu, HI, according to surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from November 1992 to March 1993.6 Earnings for fast-food shift leaders also were lower in Puerto Rico ($4.64) and highest in Guam ($7.43). (See table1.)
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1994 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
Read abstract Download full text in PDF (404K)
1 John Mariani, America Eats Out (New York, William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1991), p.174.
2 Marjorie Eberts and Margaret Gisler, Opportunities in Fast-food Careers (Chicago, NTC, Publishing Group, 1989), p. 4.
3 Mariani, America Eats Out, p. 174.
4 1987 Census of Retail Trade, RC87-5-1 Subject Series: Establishment and Firm Size (Bureau of Census, January 1990), Table 6, pp. 1-26.
5 Eberts and Gisler, Opportunities in Fast-food Careers, pp. 30-31
6 John Love, McDonald's: Behind the Golden Arches (New York, Bantam Books, 1986).
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers