Now it's even harder to get what some people consider the standard "fall back" job of working at a restaurant. The number of restaurants in the United States has been steadily declining over the past few years, leaving the best food service jobs for those with the most experience -- the workers who see them as a profession, rather than a fill-in position until something in their chosen field comes along.
Chicago-based research firm The NPD Group recently released numbers that showed the U.S. restaurant industry contracted this past fall, with the total number of commercial food service locations falling by about 1 percent, down 5,551 outlets to 579,102 locations. As a comparison, the number of restaurants declined about 0.3 percent in 2009.
It seems that the independent, non-chain restaurants suffered the most in the commercial sector -- the number of those outlets fell about 2 percent, or 2,122 restaurants. The number of chain units, however, held steady at 267,408 outlets.
"These past two years have been particularly tough for independents, which don't have the resources to compete with the chains," NPD director Greg Starzynski told Nation's Restaurant News. "Over the past few years we've lost several thousand independent restaurants."
Surprisingly enough, this is not considered bad news for the restaurant industry, which many analysts felt was overbuilt. Jeffrey Bernstein, a securities analyst with New York-based Barclays Capital, feels that further unit contraction in 2011 may bring restaurants closer to a sustainable supply-demand equation with consumers.
So the numbers could be interpreted as good news for the restaurant industry, but not so much for the American worker. Do we really need a fast food restaurant on every corner? Not necessarily. But do we really need the jobs that go with it? That would be a resounding "yes!"