A labor crunch fueled by improving consumer confidence is cooking in the restaurant industry as venues from San Francisco to New York increase wages and benefits to attract cooks, servers and dishwashers.

“We had an open call for staff I posted on at least three sites at up to $80 an ad,” said Casey Thompson, executive chef at Aveline in San Francisco. “Zero people came.”

Thompson increased hourly pay at the newly opened restaurant to $17 an hour from $11 for cooks who prepare abalone, pig cheek and seaweed soda bread.

Encouraged by an improving economy and growing appetite for dishes prepared in unusual ways with newfound ingredients, chefs such as Thompson are opening more fine-dining restaurants, helping boost total industry sales to an expected record high of $683 billion in 2014.

The jump in spending on eating out comes as the number of immigrants available to work in kitchens shrinks and restaurant employees take jobs in other sectors of an improving labor market. The job crunch extends from upscale restaurants to fast- food chains and from Arizona and Texas to Washington, and New York, said Chris Christopher, director, U.S. & global consumer economics at IHS Economics, a Lexington, Massachusetts-based research firm.

“Increased income in upper household income brackets is fueling increased demand in full service restaurants,” Christopher said. “Consumers are feeling more confident about things and will splurge. Instead of going out to eat once a month at the corner fancy restaurant they will go twice.”

‘Flipping Burgers’

Escalating competition is leading restaurants to pay employees more so they don’t leave “even if they are just flipping burgers,” he said.