By Sabine Schoenbach
Policy Analyst, NC Justice Center
The restaurant industry is growing in North Carolina. Despite job losses throughout the Great Recession and the economic recovery, food‐service occupations are projected to have one of the highest growth rates in North Carolina over the next ten years. The potential to achieve financial stability and upward economic mobility, however, remains slim for workers in the food industry. The occupations associated with food service are among the lowest‐paid in North Carolina and offer few employment benefits such as health insurance and paid sick days.
The 340,000 North Carolina workers who prepare and serve our food work for some of the state’s lowest wages. The average hourly wage of a worker in food services is $9.66, which translates to only $20,100 per year. Pay scales vary from higher paid chefs and head cooks to the lowest paid fast food workers. Waiters and waitresses, who make up the largest group of tipped workers, fall definitively on the bottom end of this pay spectrum at an average hourly wage of $9.23 per hour