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Arizona restaurant growth creating labor demand

PHOENIX — As Arizona’s restaurant industry continues to grow, a Valley expert says restaurants are sure to be putting up more “Help Wanted” signs.

“For the first time ever in recent history, we’re going to lead the nation in year-over-year sales growth,” said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association.

Chucri said Arizona’s culinary industry is poised to reach $11 billion in 2014 and the industry’s value has been steadily climbing for several years after a lull in the mid- to late-2000s.

“It was part immigration, it was part the minimum wage being increased in 2006 (and) it was part of the downturn in the economy and not needing as many staff people in your front of the house and the back of the house,” Chucri said.

However, with strong sales growth and new restaurants opening, Chucri said that could open the door for hiring.

“We’re not only doing well on a sales side, we’re also doing very well in creating jobs in the restaurant industry,” he explained. “If you ask me, ‘Are we going to be able to keep up with demand in the workforce?’ Right now, it’s very difficult.”

Besides seeking new employees, Chucri said businesses will also likely be looking for way to keep the employees they have.

“People are employing all kinds of methods to keep their staff (and) retain their staff,” he said.

Employees might begin to see more flexible scheduling or higher wages as incentive for them to stay on board, he predicted.

Over the next decade, Chucri predicted continued growth in Arizona’s culinary industry and added that technology will also have an effect on that growth.

From point-of-sale services, such as Square, to online employee scheduling such as HotSchedules, Chucri said technology is going to continue to become more involved in Arizona’s restaurant industry.