Wages in the restaurant industry in Arkansas have grown almost 21% since the pandemic, statistics from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services show.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, before the restrictions of COVID-19 hit Arkansas in March 2020, average weekly wages for food services and drinking places totaled $322.
They hit a high of $405 in the third quarter of 2022, before dropping to $389 in the first quarter of this year. A comparison of fourth-quarter 2019 with first-quarter 2023 shows an increase of 20.8%.
As we reported last week, average annual employment in the restaurant industry in the state has exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
In 2019, average annual employment in restaurants and bars in Arkansas was 97,346. In 2022, that number was 98,471.
The Division of Workforce Services defines the food services industry as encompassing all jobs in a restaurant, including managers, cooks, waiters, accountants, human resources staff and information technology, web and online services staff.
Asked whether wages might increase further, Katie Beck, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, said: “We have seen many businesses explore innovative ways to attract and retain talent, including growth in wages. Also, additional flexibility with scheduling. We’ll continue to see those innovations going forward.”