restaurant labour shortage

Handling the continuing restaurant labour shortage

It’s no secret that there is a restaurant labour shortage going on in the industry right now.

Long recognized as a high-intensity, low-margin sector, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed many restaurant workers out of the industry, and many seem to have no plans to return.

RELATED: The hiring dilemma: Luring restaurant workers amid pandemic damage

Black Box Intelligence reports that the current staffing challenges have resulted in full-service restaurants operating with 6.2 fewer employees in the back of the house and 2.8 employees fewer in the front of the house than they had in 2019.

There are approximately 70 per cent more job vacancies than pre-pandemic levels across all industries and 10 per cent fewer people looking for work. That is the greatest gap in recorded history, according to Black Box.

Reasons for leaving

According to a recent detailed report published by Black Box and Snagajob, there are four driving factors contributing to the restaurant staffing shortage:

  • Inadequate wages and benefits
  • Challenges related to childcare
  • Opportunities in other industries
  • Concerns about physical and mental health

The three main specific reasons that respondents left the industry were:

  • Higher pay offered in other industries
  • The need for a consistent schedule and income
  • The lack of professional development and promotion opportunities

Restaurants’ responses

However, the survey report did find that 66 per cent of employees who have left the restaurant industry during the pandemic would be willing to return if the right conditions were met. 

The most important things restaurant workers look for in a new job are:

  • Strong starting hourly wage
  • Promotion opportunities
  • Flexible schedules
  • Health benefits
  • Positive company culture

Meanwhile, the incentives that Black Box found are most appealing to workers playing for restaurant jobs right now are:

  1. Cash bonus if hired
  2. Cash bonus for interviewing
  3. Retention bonus (if they’re still with the company after a certain period of time)
  4. Free meal at the interview

Restaurants are certainly trying to do what they can to attract workers back.

For instance, Black Box reports that many restaurants are offering higher wages and unique incentives to attract employees, and in Q2 2021, limited-service hourly wage increased by 10 per cent year over year, the highest increase the industry has seen in years.

Boost your appeal

The report recommends that restaurants ensure they advertise any of the
benefits or perks of working in their restaurant in the job postings, whether it’s financial, cultural, or even free food.

The most important step operators can take, though, in easing the crisis of a restaurant labour shortage is to focus on fostering an empathetic, flexible, and supportive company culture.