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Are Restaurants in Alignment With September’s Jobs Report?

Dartmouth recently reported on restaurants still struggling with an insufficient number of employees in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. 

Trail Break is operating with fewer servers. It’s been a long haul for many in the restaurant industry, particularly in the realm of labor shortages, but September’s gain of 61,000 jobs in food services and drinking places put us squarely back in pre-pandemic territory. These jobs represent the biggest increase since January when 81,500 jobs were added. The leisure and hospitality sector played a big part in the overall jobs gain, adding 96,000 to the 336,000 of total nonfarm payroll employment. 

The question remains: Are restaurant operators feeling the relief these numbers suggest? Let’s explore today’s changing labor landscape and its effect on the restaurant industry.

The Current Restaurant Labor Market

This latest employment growth for eating and drinking places translates to 33 straight months of growth, with the third quarter seeing an additional 100,400 positions. According to the National Restaurant Association, since the lows in April 2020, the restaurant industry has added over 6 million jobs, bringing the total to 12.37 million.

Despite this positive trend, job openings are still higher than usual, with over 1 million at the end of August, 150,000 more than normal. Full-service restaurants are still feeling the greatest impact. States experiencing the slowest workforce recovery and, correspondingly, possessing the most job listings include Nevada, Utah, South Dakota, and Idaho.

The Impact on Restaurants

While some restaurants are feeling relief, a prolonged labor shortage remains in effect for many. In response, the owner of Trail Break, the Upper Valley’s ski-themed Mexican restaurant, Topher Lyons, is increasing their food truck footprint, noting it takes at least 15 people to staff a restaurant and only five to run a food truck. Other restaurants in the area report similar labor shortages. Pine Restaurant is currently operating without food runners, bussers, and dishwashers and has extended its recruitment reach through job boards at the local high school and the offices at Dartmouth.

Branch reported on the Loon Café in Minneapolis and the Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Louis Park, restaurants struggling to prevent burnout among existing employees taking on more than their fair share. Even managers and owners are bartending, hosting, serving, and cooking. As Tim Mahoney, owner of Loon Café, said, “Great help is gold today in our industry.”

The Disconnect Between the Numbers and the Experience

While more workers are returning or starting out in the restaurant industry, many of the factors that transformed the labor market existed outside the pandemic’s hold. Flexibility, increased pay, and a better work-life balance are all driving forces in the current upheaval. While signs of improvement are appearing, employees still want to work for an employer that offers these incentives and in an environment that feels safe and welcoming. 

And many are entering this segment for the first time, requiring additional training and patience. As Jack Sparrow eloquently stated in the Pirates of the Caribbean, “Take what you can…give nothing back.” While this nautical reference relates to taking advantage of the ocean swell when pulling into the dock by pulling on a ship’s ropes and holding fast, it’s also a perfect description of the restaurant labor pool, reminding us to treasure our current employees like the gold they are. 

A Different Recruiting Approach

Target Workforce offers a different approach to hiring. This proprietary technology uses advanced geo-location, mobile tracking, and IP address verification to locate extremely qualified leads in your area. Then, it sends targeted ads via popular websites, targeting the right person at the right time.

This approach is far better than the post-and-pray method, especially in today’s environment where newbies require extensive training. Of course, there are always those diamonds in the rough that are well worth the effort. Then, there are those first-timers who wonder what they got themselves into and misinterpret customer service for food delivery. Tarket Workforce enables restaurant operators to find high-quality, trained staff at the lowest recruiting cost.

To learn more about this latest technology or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING today.

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