Restaurant industry workers face a fundamental industry conundrum. The highest number of restaurant jobs, as well as the best-paying jobs, are in the main metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, these major metro areas are also the most expensive places to live, so the higher wages and better tips tend to be immediately offset by the cost of housing.
New York has long been the poster child for this conundrum. The greater metro area, which includes parts of New Jersey, employs the largest amount of chefs and head cooks in the country. The rate of industry employment is almost double that of the Los Angeles metro area, which is number two on the list.
The higher wages and better tips tend to be immediately offset by the cost of housing.
Of course, the problem here is that New York City is also one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Both entry-level and managerial workers enjoy a higher average salary than most of the rest of the country, but it’s largely offset by the cost of housing alone. Los Angeles faces a similar problem.
The traditional solution to this conundrum has been to commute, trading some extra time each work day for lower housing costs in a more remote suburban area. That isn’t always possible anymore, however. Take San Francisco as an example. The city recently edged out New York for the first time as the most expensive place to live in America.
The rapid growth of the tech and finance industries there has elevated the cost of living.
The San Francisco metro area is one of the top ten largest employers of restaurant industry workers in the country, and the traditional solution for lower to mid-level industry workers there was to live in Oakland or other East Bay cities with a reasonable commute time and a much lower cost of living.
The rapid growth of the tech and finance industries there has elevated the cost of living throughout the Bay Area as a whole to the point that there’s no relief to be found within about 50 miles in any direction from the city. The median wage for cooks and head chefs of $49,290 seems nice at first but quickly fades in appeal when average apartment rentals run in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 per month.
Metro areas away from the coasts still offer a desirable quality of life with good wages and a reasonable cost of living.
That doesn’t mean that every major metro area in the country functions this way, however. This is a phenomenon largely limited to the coastal cities, particularly the West Coast given the temperate weather all year. Metro areas away from the coasts still offer a desirable quality of life combined with good wages and a reasonable cost of living.
Las Vegas is perhaps the foremost example. Despite being geographically smaller than many metro areas, the region employs the third highest amount of restaurant workers in the country yet has a very moderate cost of living.
Despite being geographically smaller than many metro areas, Las Vegas employs the third highest amount of restaurant workers in the country.
Las Vegas cooks and head chefs also have a median annual wage of $52,330, which is significantly higher than much of the country. Other examples of good mean wages for chefs in cities with an affordable cost of living include Houston, Sacramento, Denver, Colorado Springs, Sioux City, Lincoln, Jackson, Lansing and Jacksonville.
Surprisingly high wages can also sometimes be found in more rural, non-metropolitan areas. Central Louisiana, East Arkansas, East Kentucky and both Northeast and Southwest Wyoming all have some of the country’s highest mean wages for restaurant industry workers, though naturally these jobs will not be as plentiful as they are in densely populated cities.
The greatest number of jobs are found in Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston and San Diego, all cities that have established issues with affordable housing.
The top ten cities that have the most jobs for restaurant workers do tend to be expensive places more often than not. In addition to the cities already mentioned, the greatest amount of jobs are found in Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston and San Diego, all cities that have established issues with affordable housing. Only Atlanta at #8 begins to approach the more affordable major metro areas of the country.
These are just the absolute biggest destinations, however. With an estimated 14.4 million jobs in the industry in the country as a whole, there’s definitely a place somewhere for everyone who wants to work. And, if you’re looking, Sirvo has great job opportunities available now!
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