The restaurant industry in the United States is large and quickly growing, with 10 million workers. 1 in every 12 U.S. residents work in the business, and during the 2008 recession, the industry was an anomaly in that it continued to grow. Restaurants are known for having low wages, which they claim are due to thin profit margins of 4-5%. For comparison, however, Walmart has a 1% profit margin. As a result of these low wages, restaurant employees suffer from three times the poverty rate as other U.S. workers, and use food stamps twice as much. Restaurants also employ marginalized groups. They are the largest employer of people of color. Restaurants rank as the second largest employer of immigrants. These workers statistically are concentrated in the lowest paying positions in the restaurant industry. In the restaurant industry, 39% of workers earn minimum wage or lower.
Dining in restaurants has become increasingly popular, with the proportion of meals consumed outside the home in restaurants or institutions rising from 25% in 1950 to 46% in 1990. This is caused by factors such as the growing numbers of older people, who are often unable or unwilling to cook their meals at home and the growing number of single-parent households. It is also caused by the convenience that restaurants can afford people; the growth of restaurant popularity is also correlated with the growing length of the work day in the US, as well as the growing number of single parent households. Eating in restaurants has also become more popular with the growth of higher income households. At the same time, less expensive establishments such as fast food establishments can be quite inexpensive, making restaurant eating accessible to many.