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An Appetizing Part-time Job

by Mark Schultz
February 2016

Food preparation and serving occupations are in high demand in Southeast Minnesota, ranking seventh according to DEED's Occupations in Demand data tool. With an estimated 20,109 people working in this occupation group in 2012 and a projected 8,390 total openings, 416 of them new jobs and 7,640 replacement openings between 2012 and 2022, this industry shows no sign of slowing down. The number of jobs in this industry has remained relatively stable since 2009 according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages with the exception of a spike from 2011 to 2012 in Rice and Winona Counties (see Figure 1).

FIgure 1

While it is true that jobs in this field traditionally are not known for high pay, what they offer is an excellent opportunity to earn some extra money – perfect for people like college students, people who crave a fishing boat, and those who have school loans to pay off, just to name a few. Even though we are out of the recession, times are still tough for some people. The price of gasoline is pretty low right now, but the cost of living for other things can be high in some areas and may require individuals to obtain a second job. Take Rochester for example, a prominent city in the Southeast Minnesota Economic Development Region. One of the largest issues Rochester is experiencing with the labor force shortage that is endemic to this city is the high cost of living. For example, according to the DEED Cost of Living tool, a single parent with a child needs an hourly wage of $19.97 an hour to afford the basic needs. This is certainly not going to be covered by a job in the food preparation and serving-related occupations. However, a second job in this field could help an individual or family make ends meet or earn extra money to save. Even in smaller towns in the region cost of living can be pretty high (see Table 1).

Table 1: 2015 Cost of Living for EDR 10 by County for a Single Person With One Child
County Yearly Cost Hourly Wage Child Care Food Health Care Housing Transport Other Taxes
Dodge $38,154 $18.34 485 463 278 900 601 191 262
Fillmore $34,377 $16.53 426 466 284 660 700 158 171
Freeborn $31,892 $15.33 434 468 284 660 554 158 100
Goodhue $38,822 $18.66 596 466 284 774 653 174 289
Houston $33,276 $16.00 428 468 278 747 550 170 132
Olmsted $41,531 $19.97 763 470 278 900 502 192 356
Rice $38,951 $18.73 517 464 284 868 640 186 287
Steele $33,206 $15.96 424 468 284 753 537 171 130
Wabasha $33,843 $16.27 527 464 278 660 580 157 154
Winona $33,094 $15.91 489 467 284 693 532 162 131
Source: DEED's Cost of Living Tool

As mentioned above, one of the major problems with jobs in this occupation is the low pay. Table 2 shows the wages for these jobs as shown in DEED's Occupational Employment Statistics for the first quarter of 2015. None of the starting wages for all of these jobs are high enough to cover the cost of living in any of the 10 counties in the Southeast region. In fact, all but one, chefs and head cooks, fail to provide wages that would cover the cost of living for a single person with a child in these counties even at the 90th percentile.

Table 2: First Quarter 2015 Hourly Wages for Positions in Food Service and Related Occupations, Southeast Minnesota
Occupational Title Hourly Wage Percentiles
10th 25th Median 75th 90th
Chefs and Head Cooks $13.54 $15.76 $18.46 $29.99 $35.81
First-Line Supervisors/Managers of Food Preparation and Serving Workers $8.68 $10.31 $12.90 $16.25 $19.47
Cooks, Fast Food $7.75 $8.10 $8.72 $9.32 $10.79
Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria $9.24 $10.38 $11.86 $14.15 $16.70
Cooks, Restaurant $8.10 $8.95 $10.49 $12.11 $16.22
Cooks, Short Order $7.95 $8.58 $9.58 $11.11 $12.22
Cooks, All Other $9.83 $10.35 $11.21 $12.38 $14.04
Food Preparation Workers $8.03 $8.77 $10.17 $11.97 $15.25
Bartenders $7.83 $8.29 $9.04 $10.36 $12.07
Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food $7.77 $8.14 $8.80 $9.44 $11.64
Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop $7.82 $8.22 $8.88 $9.54 $12.00
Waiters and Waitresses $7.78 $8.13 $8.72 $9.31 $10.03
Food Servers, Nonrestaurant $8.40 $9.60 $10.85 $12.24 $14.48
Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers $7.78 $8.14 $8.75 $9.35 $10.87
Dishwashers $7.82 $8.21 $8.86 $9.50 $11.06
Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, and Coffee Shop $7.76 $8.15 $8.81 $9.47 $11.18
Food Preparation and Serving Related Workers, All Other $8.16 $9.07 $10.55 $12.07 $16.30
Source: DEED's Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)


On August 1, 2015, the minimum hourly wage rose to $9.00 except for firms that gross less than $500,000 annually. Their minimum hourly wage is $7.25.

DEED's employment projections and current vacancies are a mixed bag, good news and bad news. As shown in the Employment Outlook data tool, this occupation is projected to see 8,390 openings during this time, with 416 new openings and 7,640 replacement openings or openings created by people leaving the field (see Table 3.)

Table 3: Projected Openings from 2012-2022 in Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations, Southeast Minnesota
Occupations Estimated 2012 Employment Projected 2022 Employment Percent Change 2012-2022 Numeric Change 2012-2022 Replacement Openings 2012-2022 Total Openings 2012-2022

Food Preparation and Serving Related

20,109

20,525

2.1%

416

7,640

8,390

Source: DEED's Employment Outlook Tool

Here's the killjoy "but" that comes with this good news. DEED's current Job Vacancy Survey (see Table 4) shows that 54% of current vacancies are part-time and 29% are temporary or seasonal, with hours depending on the specific job in this industry. For example, 100 percent of the vacancies for non-restaurant food servers are part-time while only 6 percent of supervisors of food preparation and serving workers are characterized by part-time hours. This has a huge impact on earning potential as these part-time and seasonal jobs may not supply a "livable" wage. But, as mentioned earlier, jobs in this field are a ripe opportunity for those who need a job for some extra money for a variety of reasons.

Table 4: Second Quarter 2015 Job Vacancies in Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations, Southeast Minnesota
SOC Code Occupation Number of Vacancies Part-Time Temp. or Seasonal Requiring Post-Secondary Education Requiring 1+ Years Experience Requiring Certificate or License
350000 Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations 1,745 54% 29% 0% 36% 2%
351000 Supervisors of Food Serving and Related Occupations 164 6% 0% 0% 94% 1%
352000 Cooks and Food Preparation Workers 374 40% 15% 0% 74% 4%
352011 Cooks, Fast Food 6 75% 0% 0% 35% 50%
352012 Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria 20 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
352014 Cooks, Restaurant 311 29% 18% 0% 87% 3%
352021 Food Preparation Workers 37 97% 0% 0% 2% 1%
353000 Food and Beverage Serving Workers 1,065 66% 34% 0% 19% 2%
353021 Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food 298 90% 0% 0% 0% 3%
353022 Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession and Coffee Shop 77 96% 71% 0% 4% 2%
353031 Waiters and Waitresses 665 51% 46% 0% 30% 1%
353041 Food Servers, Non-Restaurant 11 100% 1% 0% 4% 3%
359000 Other Food Preparation and Serving Workers 142 57% 63% 0% 3% 5%
359011 Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers 5 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
359021 Dishwashers 114 51% 78% 0% 1% 3%
359031 Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge and Coffee Shop 23 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Source: DEED's Job Vacancy Tool

None of these low-skill, low-pay jobs require any post-secondary education. Obtaining a certificate or license may be required, however. For example, as shown in Table 4, 50 percent of the vacancies for fast food cooks require a certificate or license. More than likely this may be a ServeSafe® food handler certification, which can be obtained online and costs only $15 on their website or one can search for other in-person trainings on their website. Another certificate that is available in class and online is the ServeSafe® Food Manager certification. At Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical this is a one-day course and costs $167.

What appears to be more important for these vacancies is having experience. While this is not surprising for positions as a supervisor, where 94 percent of the vacancies require one or more years of experience, other positions require experience as well. Vacancies for restaurant cooks (87 percent), cooks and food preparation workers (74 percent), fast food cooks (35 percent), and waiters and waitresses (30 percent) also require experience. The good news is that there are other vacancies in the Food Services Industry that do not require any or require very little experience, such as combined food preparation and serving workers and dishwashers. These vacancies are a perfect way for individuals to get their foot in the door, gain experience, and move up to better positions in the Food Services industry. Furthermore, while working and gaining experience, individuals can work on impressing their manager by working hard, showing up for all shifts, taking on extra duties, etc. and get promoted from within.

While employment in food preparation and serving-related occupations may not turn out to be a career, it is certainly a good way to earn extra money as a second job for whatever reason. Take, for example, fast food cooks who earn $7.75 per hour at the 10th percentile. At 15 hours a week that's a gross pay of $465 per month. Even after taxes that could easily cover a car payment or rent for a college student who shares an apartment or house with roommates. Not bad for a few shifts a week.

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