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Food Service Workers

History

While food service workers comprise a large and respected occupational group, it is only in comparatively recent times that serving customers in public eating-places has become recognized as a separate occupation. In ancient and medieval times, inns were established along main highways to provide food and lodging for travelers. Usually, the innkeeper and his or her family, with perhaps a few servants, were able to look after all the needs of travelers. Restaurants as we know them today hardly existed. Wealthy people did almost all their entertaining in their own homes, where they had large staffs of servants to wait on their guests.

Improved roads and transportation methods in the 18th and 19th centuries led to an increase in travel for both business and pleasure. Inns near large cities, no longer merely havens for weary travelers, became pleasant destinations for day excursions into the country. The rise of an urban middle class created a demand for restaurants where people could enjoy good food and socialize in a convivial atmosphere. More and more waiters were needed to serve the growing number of customers. In the great hotels and restaurants of Europe in the 19th century, the presentation of elegantly prepared food in a polished and gracious manner was raised to a high art.

In the United States, the increasing ease and speed of travel has contributed to a very mobile population, which has created a greater demand for commercial food service. People eat at restaurants and fast food establishments more and more. Today, the food service industry is among the largest and most active sectors of the nation's economy.