Texas Restaurant Industry Applauds New Program to Help Address Workforce Challenges

Mar 30

AUSTIN, Texas (March 30, 2022) – Texas restaurants can only thrive when they are fully staffed by knowledgeable, skilled teams. Current recruitment challenges in the hospitality industry are threatening rebuilding efforts, forcing owners and operators to limit service and close additional days. The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement (EWEA) program, a new national initiative, stands poised to help restaurateurs tackle the current workforce shortage.

The EWEA program, created by the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act introduced in the House on March 28, 2022, creates a pathway for workers to come to the U.S. on market-driven, non-immigrant, three-year visas. The program is intended for small businesses in industries with comparatively low sales per employee and would be available for non-agricultural jobs with lower education thresholds that have been unfilled for extended periods of time.

“There is no silver bullet to solving the industry’s recruitment challenge, but this program creates one opportunity to address the issue,” said Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The overlapping blows of the pandemic and now an inflationary economy are limiting industry operations. For restaurants to fully recover and grow, we have to be open at full capacity — and to do that we have to continue to grow our workforce. This program is a win-win for employers in desperate need of employees and individuals seeking training and opportunity.”

The EWEA will initially be available for up to 65,000 workers, but after the first year, the total number of workers is determined by market-based need. The number of workers in the program cannot exceed 85,000.

“America’s labor shortage has become so severe that it’s not only restricting restaurants’ ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and grow, but it’s also impacting the price and availability of food,” said Dr. Emily Williams Knight, President & CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “With President Biden warning just last week that food shortages will worsen because of the violence in Ukraine, it’s more important than ever that our lawmakers pursue every opportunity to strengthen our foodservice workforce and make it easier for businesses to hire.

“The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (EWEA) is one of these opportunities, creating a much-needed mechanism for essential industries with unfilled jobs like the foodservice sector to bring workers to the US with a market-driven, temporary visa,” Knight continued. “I’m proud that the National Restaurant Association has worked directly with Congressman Smucker to bring this workforce development solution to the table, and we will continue to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to address restaurants’ labor and supply chain challenges.”

“The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act addresses a pressing problem for a host of industries that is stalling economic growth – a chronic worker shortage. Restaurants are vital drivers in every community, so I appreciate the on-going input and support of the National Restaurant Association in bringing this legislation to introduction,” said Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA).

“We appreciate Rep. Smucker’s willingness to work with us for the last few months to ensure this bill will meet some of the unique needs of the restaurant industry, and his leadership getting it introduced in the House. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this essential tool to help the industry address its workforce shortage,” said Kennedy.

The foodservice industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer, with a workforce of more than 14 million people in nearly one million eating and drinking establishments. According to the National Restaurant Association 2022 State of the Restaurant Industry report, roughly half of operators expect recruiting and retention of employees will be their top challenge in 2022. This challenge is not new for the industry. Prior to the pandemic in 2019, more than a third of operators rated recruitment and retention of employees as their top challenge.

Learn more about the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement (EWEA) program here


Formed in 1937, the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) serves as the advocate and indispensable resource for the foodservice industry in Texas. As a leading business association, the TRA represents the state’s $70 billion restaurant industry, which comprises approximately 50,000 locations and a workforce of 1.3 million employees. Along with the Texas Restaurant Foundation (TRF), the workforce development arm of the TRA, the association proudly continues to protect, advance, and educate a growing industry as the TRA enters its 85th anniversary year. For more information, please visit


Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises nearly 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 14.5 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We sponsor the industry's largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); and unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart). For more information, visit and find us on Twitter at @WeRRestaurants, Facebook, and YouTube.


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