Acclaimed Restaurateur Martha Hoover on Why Now Is the Time to Work in Restaurants

Courtesy Martha Hoover

Editor’s Note: According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry is currently 1 million jobs below where it would have been before the pandemic, adding to how restaurants are struggling to recover from the pandemic. That’s why OpenTable is partnering with leading job site Indeed to launch Interview Days: Restaurant Jobs. Check out current open positions in the restaurant industry and hear from chefs on why the time to start your job in hospitality is now. Follow Indeed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for even more.

And if you need a little extra incentive on why you should work in the restaurant industry, take it from one of the greats: restaurateur Martha Hoover.

I’d like to dispel a myth: The pandemic did not kill the independent restaurant industry. A lot has been reported as to the industry’s vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and inequities. But as logic will tell you, in an industry this large, one single brush stroke does not represent us all.

I opened my first restaurant in 1989, having never worked in a restaurant and not knowing I was pregnant with my third child. Today, my company owns and operates 12 restaurants in the Indianapolis area and employs more than 300 people. Part of our benefits include paid time off, parental leave, health insurance, an emergency relief fund, a wellness program, and opportunities for advancement and career growth.

I love the industry because it is the most representative industry I know. One which employs people from all walks of life, all religions, nationalities, ethnicities, gender identities, and educational levels. Nearly 50 percent of all adults have, at some point in their life, at least once worked in a restaurant, according to a 2011 Aspen Institute report, and nearly 33 percent of adults work their first job in a restaurant. Nine out of ten restaurant managers started out in entry-level positions, and 80 percent of restaurants are owned by people who started out at the entry-level position. Although there is an impression that restaurant work is transitional and temporary, the truth is that for most of its employees, the bulk of their career years are spent in the industry, the Aspen Institute report found.

And while restaurants certainly provide spring boards for those entering the workforce, the 2011 Aspen Institute report found that over 58 percent of all workers in the industry are 25 and older and 12 percent are 55 and older. We are the backbone of the American economy, and if you add us all together, we are also the second-largest private employer in the United States. There is room for everyone.

If you think that restaurants are merely places to grab meals, I want to challenge that idea. Restaurants are much more than that. Restaurants create change in neighborhoods; they create change in cities. They are where world-changing ideas happen.

In case you think I am referring to some romantic dream of pre-revolutionary France, think about this: Nearly 61 years ago on September 17, a group of students in New Orleans sat down at McCrory’s white-only lunch counter, refusing to leave until they were arrested. Elvis’s first Las Vegas residency contract was written on a restaurant table cloth, and “Lyin’ Eyes” was written by the Eagles while dining at Dan Tana’s in Los Angeles.

Sure, restaurants are places where poets, writers, and would-be revolutionaries hang out — but they are also places for first dates, post-funeral lunches, marriage proposals, major life cycle events, and those daily cups of coffee with cinnamon toast.

They are places, also, of opportunity for those who work in them. We need you now. Team up with restaurants.

Martha Hoover is the award-winning founder and owner of Patachou Inc., which operates 12 restaurants in the Indianapolis area, including Café Patachou, Petite Chou Bistro, Napolese Pizzeria, and more.