As the economy continues to decline, more people are choosing to go to fast food restaurants over more expensive choices. The result is a growth in the industry and plenty of jobs.

"We had a great year in 2008 in attracting people, and we're looking forward to a great 2009," said Barry Zelickson, senior vice president of operations for Border Foods in Golden Valley.

Growth

Border Foods operates restaurants including KFC, Taco Bell and Sonic. The industry is growing so well that Border Foods is planning on opening five new Sonic restaurants in the Twin Cities this year.

"The restaurant industry is both innovative and resilient," says Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association president and CEO. "In the year ahead, the industry's sales are projected to continue to increase, with a total economic impact that exceeds $1.5 trillion, yet at the same time, the industry is experiencing unprecedented challenges due to the economic recession and elevated food prices."

More Than Just Burgers

But careers aren't just in flipping burgers and bagging French fries. Careers run the gamut from servers and preparers to management. There are also jobs to be had at the corporate offices.

People come to the industry for different reasons. Some take the work as a first job; others supplement their incomes working it as a second job.

"We have students working for us, we have entire families working for us," said Zelickson.

Opportunities for advancement are excellent. Often workers progress through the ranks.

"It depends on a person's skill sets, but we like to hire internally," says Zelickson.

In fact, because the company is opening the new Sonic restaurants, there was a surge in district managers eager to join the new restaurants.

The best skill to have is to be able to relate with customers.

"You have to be a people person," adds Zelickson. "We call it `Customer Mania,' and we help develop that."

As the economy continues to slow down, there are still plenty of opportunities in the fast food world.


Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer from Blaine.