The labor shortage continues, with a wave of hospitality employees who rejoined the industry in fall 2021 who are now leaving again. Job marketplace Joblist surveyed 13,659 wage earners in October 2021 and reported that 58% of restaurant and hotel workers planned to resign from their positions by the end of 2021. Restaurant Business predicts that if consistent with the previous wave of resignations, ¼ of these workers will not return to the industry.
Employees expressed increasing dissatisfaction and low pay as the main motivation for leaving, with turnover only making it worse. 11% of the respondents indicated that they’ve already returned for more schooling or training to switch careers.
Restaurant workers say that their pay has increased too little in the past decade or so to justify the COVID-related risk, mental and physical exertion required in the restaurant industry. Especially in the past few months, increasing mask policies have caused more distress for those working in the front of the house who take on the responsibility of enforcing public health guidelines. Owners say they cannot afford to pay more, and food costs have been skyrocketing as well, meaning there are few factors to toggle outside of menu pricing. With many customers uninformed about the realities of restaurant economics, this proves a challenge.
Employers are competing by increasing pay, cross-sharing opportunities on as many platforms as possible, and reaching out far and wide through their networks to solicit applicants. And while corporations have tried to sweeten the deal with employment or referral bonuses, many small businesses can’t match these offers.
All of these challenges occur at a moment where diners are continuing to patronize restaurants again. Long time industry people feel constantly overworked, and the labor shortage becomes a vicious cycle in which existing staff must take on more of the work if management cannot successfully hire extra hands. Restaurants like Chick-fil-a or McDonalds have altered some of their services, such as eliminating curbside ordering or in-house dining, to remove the strain on staffing needs.
With the high stress of the industry, the danger of COVID and the lack of benefits and stable working hours, this exodus—deemed the “Great Resignation”—will likely continue. Striketober has continued to demand an overhaul of the American workplace. Organizing has been bolstered by new digital tools, such as coworker.org, which helps aggregate, analyze and diffuse data from workers in support of workplace change. Organizing and labor strikes are also now emerging beyond “old economies” of manufacturing, and now involve sector-wide movements as opposed to strikes led by formal unions and their enrolled members.
Restaurant Dive offers some recommendations for operators to improve recruitment and employee satisfaction:
- Embrace technology tools—on-demand apps offer flexibility for users, who can choose to opt-in and out of shifts, and for owners who can fill in gaps in the schedule. Apps like GigPro and Qwik also take care of some initial interviews and onboarding on behalf of restaurant operators to streamline the process.
- Protect workers—support staff by providing clear training on how to enforce mask and social distancing mandates, offer health check tracking and tools, and provide masks as needed.
- Support parents and other job seekers who need flexibility—highlight willingness to work with those who have childcare needs and may need to adjust schedules.
- Recruit transparently—note starting wage, opportunities for growth, schedule flexibility, health, PTO, and retirement benefits clearly in the job post.