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Cooks and food preparation

Significant Points
* Service occupations, by far the largest occupational group, account for 65 percent of the industry’s employment.
* Hotels employ many young workers and others in part-time and seasonal jobs.
* Average earnings are lower than in most other industries.

Nature of the Work
Hotels and other accommodations are as diverse as the many family and business travelers they accommodate. The industry includes all types of lodging, from upscale hotels to RV parks. Motels, resorts, casino hotels, bed-and-breakfast inns, and boarding houses also are included. In fact, in 2004 nearly 62,000 establishments provided overnight accommodations to suit many different needs and budgets.

Establishments vary greatly in size and in the services they provide. Hotels and motels comprise the majority of establishments and tend to provide more services than other lodging places. There are five basic types of hotels—commercial, resort, residential, extended-stay, and casino. Most hotels and motels are commercial properties that cater mainly to business people, tourists, and other travelers who need accommodations for a brief stay. Commercial hotels and motels usually are located in cities or suburban areas and operate year round. Larger properties offer a variety of services for their guests, including a range of restaurant and beverage service options—from coffee bars and lunch counters to cocktail lounges and formal fine-dining restaurants. Some properties provide a variety of retail shops on the premises, such as gift boutiques, newsstands, drug and cosmetics counters, and barber and beauty shops. An increasing number of full-service hotels now offer guests access to laundry and valet services, swimming pools, and fitness centers or health spas. A small, but growing, number of luxury hotel chains also manage condominium units in combination with their transient rooms, providing both hotel guests and condominium owners with access to the same services and amenities.

Larger hotels and motels often have banquet rooms, exhibit halls, and spacious ballrooms to accommodate conventions, business meetings, wedding receptions, and other social gatherings. Conventions and business meetings are major sources of revenue for these hotels and motels. Some commercial hotels are known as conference hotels—fully self-contained entities specifically designed for meetings. They provide physical fitness and recreational facilities for meeting attendees, in addition to state-of-the-art audiovisual and technical equipment, a business center, and banquet services.

Resort hotels and motels offer luxurious surroundings with a variety of recreational facilities, such as swimming pools, golf courses, tennis courts, game rooms, and health spas, as well as planned social activities and entertainment. Resorts typically are located in vacation destinations or near natural settings, such as mountains, the seashore, theme parks, or other attractions. As a result, the business of many resorts fluctuates with the season. Some resort hotels and motels provide additional convention and conference facilities to encourage customers to combine business with pleasure. During the off season, many of these establishments solicit conventions, sales meetings, and incentive tours to fill their otherwise empty rooms; some resorts even close for the off-season.

Residential hotels provide living quarters for permanent and semi permanent residents. They combine the comfort of apartment living with the convenience of hotel services. Many have dining rooms and restaurants that also are open to residents and to the general public.

Extended-stay hotels combine features of a resort and a residential hotel. Typically, guests use these hotels for a minimum of 5 consecutive nights. These facilities usually provide rooms with fully equipped kitchens, entertainment systems, ironing boards and irons, office space with computer and telephone lines, fitness centers, and other amenities.

Casino hotels provide lodging in hotel facilities with a casino on the premises. The casino provides table wagering games and may include other gambling activities, such as slot machines and sports betting. Casino hotels generally offer a full range of services and amenities and also may contain conference and convention facilities.

In addition to hotels and motels, bed-and-breakfast inns, recreational vehicle (RV) parks, campgrounds, and rooming and boarding houses provide lodging for overnight guests. Bed-and-breakfast inns provide short-term lodging in private homes or small buildings converted for this purpose and are characterized by highly personalized service and inclusion of breakfast in the room rate. Their appeal is quaintness, with unusual service and decor.

RV parks and campgrounds cater to people who enjoy recreational camping at moderate prices. Some parks and campgrounds provide service stations, general stores, shower and toilet facilities, and coin-operated laundries. While some are designed for overnight travelers only, others are for vacationers who stay longer. Some camps provide accommodations, such as cabins and fixed campsites, and other amenities, such as food services, recreational facilities and equipment, and organized recreational activities. Examples of these overnight camps include children’s camps, family vacation camps, hunting and fishing camps, and outdoor adventure retreats that offer trail riding, white-water rafting, hiking, fishing, game hunting, and similar activities.

Other short-term lodging facilities in this industry include guesthouses, or small cottages located on the same property as a main residence, and youth hostels—dormitory-style hotels with few frills, occupied mainly by students traveling on limited budgets. Also included are rooming and boarding houses, such as fraternity houses, sorority houses, off-campus dormitories, and workers’ camps. These establishments provide temporary or longer term accommodations that may serve as a principal residence for the period of occupancy. These establishments also may provide services such as housekeeping, meals, and laundry services.

In recent years, hotels, motels, camps, and recreational and RV parks affiliated with national chains have grown rapidly. To the traveler, familiar chain establishments represent dependability and quality at predictable rates. National corporations own many chains, although many properties are independently owned but affiliated with a chain through a franchise agreement. Many independently operated hotels and inns participate in national reservations services, thereby appearing to belong to a larger enterprise. Also, many hotels join local chambers of commerce, boards of trade, convention and tourism bureaus, or regional recreation associations in order support and promote tourism in their area.

Increases in competition and in the sophistication of travelers have induced the chains to provide lodging to serve a variety of customer budgets and accommodation preferences. In general, these lodging places may be grouped into properties that offer luxury, all-suite, moderately priced, and economy accommodations. The numbers of limited-service or economy chain properties—economy lodging without extensive lobbies, restaurants, or lounges—have been growing. These properties are not as costly to build and operate. They appeal to budget-conscious family vacationers and travelers who are willing to sacrifice amenities for lower room prices.

While economy chains have become more prevalent, the movement in the hotel and lodging industry is towards more extended-stay properties. In addition to fully equipped kitchenettes and laundry services, the extended-stay market offers guest amenities such as in-room access to the Internet and grocery shopping. This segment of the hotels and other accommodations industry has eliminated traditional hotel lobbies and 24-hour front desk staffing, and housekeeping is usually done only about once a week. This helps to keep costs to a minimum.

All-suite facilities, especially popular with business travelers, offer a living room or sitting room in addition to a bedroom. These accommodations are aimed at travelers who require lodging for extended stays, families traveling with children, and business people needing to conduct small meetings without the expense of renting an additional room.

Increased competition among establishments in this industry has spurred many independently owned and operated hotels and other lodging places to join national or international reservation systems, which allow travelers to make multiple reservations for lodging, airlines, and car rentals with one telephone call. Nearly all hotel chains operate online reservation systems through the Internet.

Working Conditions
Work in hotels and other accommodations can be demanding and hectic. Hotel staffs provide a variety of services to guests and must do so efficiently, courteously, and accurately. They must maintain a pleasant demeanor even during times of stress or when dealing with an impatient or irate guest. Alternately, work at slower times, such as the off-season or overnight periods, can seem slow and tiresome without the constant presence of hotel guests. Still, hotel workers must be ready to provide guests and visitors with gracious customer service at any hour.

Because hotels are open around the clock, employees frequently work varying shifts or variable schedules. Employees who work the late shift generally receive additional compensation. Many employees enjoy the opportunity to work part-time, nights or evenings, or other schedules that fit their availability for work and the hotel’s needs. Hotel managers and many department supervisors may work regularly assigned schedules, but they also routinely work longer hours than scheduled, especially during peak travel times or when multiple events are scheduled. Also, they may be called in to work on short notice in the event of an emergency or to cover a position. Those who are self-employed, often owner-operators, tend to work long hours and often live at the establishment.

Food preparation and food service workers in hotels must withstand the strain of working during busy periods and being on their feet for many hours. Kitchen workers lift heavy pots and kettles and work near hot ovens and grills. Job hazards include slips and falls, cuts, and burns, but injuries are seldom serious. Food service workers often carry heavy trays of food, dishes, and glassware. Many of these workers work part time, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Office and administrative support workers generally work scheduled hours in an office setting, meeting with guests, clients, and hotel staff. Their work can become hectic processing orders and invoices, dealing with demanding guests, or servicing requests that require a quick turnaround, but job hazards typically are limited to muscle and eye strain common to working with computers and office equipment.

In 2003, work-related injuries and illnesses averaged 6.7 for every 100 full-time workers in hotels and other accommodations, compared with 5.0 for workers throughout private industry. Work hazards include burns from hot equipment, sprained muscles and wrenched backs from heavy lifting, and falls on wet floors.


Although the skills and experience needed by workers in this industry depend on the specific occupation, most entry-level jobs require little or no previous training. Basic tasks usually can be learned in a short time. Almost all workers in the hotel and other accommodations industry undergo on-the-job training, which usually is provided under the supervision of an experienced employee or manager. Some large chain operations have formal training sessions for new employees; many also provide video or on-line training.

Hotel operations are becoming increasingly diverse and complex, but all positions require employees to maintain a customer-service orientation. Hoteliers recognize the importance of personal service and attention to guests; so they look for persons with positive personality traits and good communication skills when filling many guest services positions, such as desk clerk and host and hostess positions. Many hotel managers place a greater emphasis on customer service skills while providing specialized training in important skill areas, such as computer technology and software. Vocational courses and apprenticeship programs in food preparation, catering, and hotel and restaurant management, offered through restaurant associations and trade unions, provide training opportunities. Programs range in length from a few months to several years. About 800 community and junior colleges offer 2-year degree programs in hotel and restaurant management. The U.S. Armed Forces also offer experience and training in food service.

Traditionally, many hotels fill first-level manager positions by promoting administrative support and service workers—particularly those with good communication skills, a solid educational background, tact, loyalty, and a capacity to endure hard work and long hours. People with these qualities still advance to manager jobs but, more recently, lodging chains have primarily been hiring persons with four-year college degrees in the liberal arts or other fields and starting them in trainee or junior management positions. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in hotel, restaurant, and hospitality management provide the strongest background for a career as a hotel manager, with nearly 150 colleges and universities offering such programs. Graduates of these programs are highly sought by employers in this industry. New graduates often go through on-the-job training programs before being given much responsibility. Eventually, they may advance to a top management position in a hotel, a corporate management opportunity in a large chain operation, or an investment or financial analysis position in the financial services sector.

Upper management positions, such as general manager, lodging manager, food service manager, or sales manager, generally require considerable formal training and job experience. Some department managers, such as comptrollers, purchasing managers, executive housekeepers, and executive chefs, generally require some specialized training and extensive on-the-job experience. To advance to positions with more responsibilities, managers frequently change employers or relocate within a chain to a property in another area.

For office and administrative support and service workers, advancement opportunities in the hotel industry vary widely. Some workers, such as housekeepers and janitors, generally have few opportunities for advancement. In large properties, however, some janitors may advance to supervisory positions. Hotel desk clerks, hospitality workers, and chefs sometimes advance to managerial positions. Promotional opportunities from the front office often are greater than those from any other department, because this vantage point provides an excellent opportunity to learn the establishment’s overall operation. Front-office jobs are excellent entry-level jobs and can serve as a steppingstone to jobs in hospitality, public relations, advertising, sales, and management.

Advancement opportunities for chefs and cooks are better than those for most other service occupations. Cooks often advance to chef or to supervisory and management positions, such as executive chef, restaurant manager, or food service manager. Some transfer to jobs in clubs, go into business for themselves, or become instructors of culinary arts.

Other Qualifications


Job Outlook
Wage and salary employment in hotels and other accommodations is expected to increase by 17 percent over the 2004-14 period, compared with 14 percent growth projected for wage and salary employment in all industries combined. Recently, business and leisure travelers have resumed travel patterns of past years, rebounding from concerns over a weak economy and security matters. In addition, as more States legalize some form of gambling, the hotel industry will increasingly invest in gaming, further fueling job growth.

Job opportunities should be concentrated in the largest hotel occupations, such as building cleaning workers and hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks>, in part because they have the highest turnover. Many openings will arise in full-service hotels and resorts and spas, because they employ the most workers. All-suite properties and extended-stay and budget hotels and motels usually do not operate restaurants, dining rooms, lounges, or kitchens; therefore, these limited-service establishments will offer a narrower range of employment and growth opportunities.

Employment outlook varies by occupation, geographic location, and service class of hotel. Employment of hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks is expected to grow faster than some other occupations in the industry as responsibilities become more numerous and some of these workers take on tasks previously reserved for managers. However, the spread of computer technology will cause employment of other clerical workers—bookkeepers, accountants, and auditing clerks and secretaries, for example—to grow more slowly than employment in the industry as a whole. Employment of waiters and waitresses will grow more slowly—reflecting the growing number of hotels and other accommodations that either do not offer full-service restaurants or contract them out to other food service establishments. Growth of full-service hotels and the small, but burgeoning, luxury hotel market which specializes in personal service will cause employment of lodging managers to grow about as fast as other occupations. The growth of economy-class establishments—hotels with fewer frills and fewer departments to manage—will moderate some of this growth because these hotels have a flatter management structure. The accelerating trend toward chain-affiliated hotels and motels should provide managers with opportunities for advancement into general manager positions, manager jobs at larger and busier properties, and corporate administrative jobs. Opportunities should be more limited for self-employed managers or owners of small lodging places, such as bed-and-breakfast inns. Job opportunities at outdoor recreation and RV parks should grow as RVs and driving vacations gain popularity in the United States. Also, gaming services and gaming manager occupations should grow as more casino hotels are built.

Much new hotel construction is taking place in major urban and suburban areas, creating many new jobs. Also, hotels that emphasize personal service, such as luxury and boutique hotels, will have a greater need for front-of-the-house employees who provide guest services, than for back office, accounting and bookkeeping, occupations.

Some occupations employed in this industry have relatively high numbers of workers who leave their jobs and must be replaced. Many young people and others who are looking only for seasonal or part-time work, and not a career, take food service and clerical jobs that require little or no previous training. To attract and retain workers, the hotel and other accommodations industry is placing more emphasis on hiring and training. Therefore, job opportunities in this industry should be plentiful for first-time jobseekers and people with limited skills.

Earnings in hotels and other accommodations generally are much lower than the average for all industries. In 2004, average earnings for all nonsupervisory workers in this industry were $10.58 an hour, or $317 a week, compared with $15.67 an hour, or $529 a week, for workers throughout private industry. Many workers in this industry earn the Federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. Some States have laws that establish a higher minimum wage. Federal laws, however, allow employers to pay below the minimum wage when an employee is expected to receive a considerable portion of income from tips.

Food and beverage service workers, as well as hosts and hostesses, maids and housekeeping cleaners, concierges, and baggage porters and bellhops, derive their earnings from a combination of hourly earnings and customer tips. Waiters and waitresses often derive the majority of their earnings from tips, which vary greatly depending on menu prices and the volume of customers served. Many employers also provide free meals and furnish uniforms. Food service personnel may receive extra pay for working at banquets and on other special occasions. In general, workers with the greatest skills, such as restaurant cooks, have the highest earnings, and workers who receive tips have the lowest. Earnings in the largest occupations in hotels and other lodging places appear in table 3.

Salaries of lodging managers are dependent upon the size and sales volume of the establishment and their specific duties and responsibilities. Managers may earn bonuses ranging up to 50 percent of their basic salary. In addition, they and their families may be furnished with lodging, meals, parking, laundry, and other services. Some hotels offer profit-sharing plans, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits to their employees.

About 9 percent of the workers in hotels and other accommodations are union members or are covered by union contracts, compared with 14 percent of workers in all industries combined.

Related Occupations

Sources of Additional Information
For information on hospitality careers, write to:

* International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education, 2613 North Parham Rd., 2nd floor, Richmond, VA 23294. Internet:

* American Hotel and Lodging Association, 1201 New York Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005-3931.

General information on food and beverage service jobs is available from:

* National Restaurant Association, 1200 17th St. NW., Washington, DC 20036-3097. Internet:

For information on the American Culinary Federation’s apprenticeship and certification programs for cooks, write to:

* American Culinary Federation, 180 Center Place Way, St. Augustine, FL 32095. Internet:

Detailed information on the following hotels and other accommodations occupations may be found in the 2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook:

* Building cleaning workers
* Chefs, cooks, and other food preparation workers
* Food and beverage serving and related workers
* Food service managers
* Hotel, motel, and resort desk clerks
* Gaming cage workers
* Gaming services occupations
* Lodging managers
* Recreation and fitness workers
* Security guards and gaming surveillance officers

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