Article contributed by Devin Partida
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a plethora of challenges to small businesses and restaurants. Whether it was closing down during quarantine lockdowns or reopening at a limited capacity, owners and managers have had to deal with unprecedented rates of staff shortages.
Owners and the few workers remaining are being stretched thin at work. As the country began to reopen over the summer, it was expected that the foodservice industry would bounce back and hire even more employees to rebuild their restaurant staff. However, it seems the opposite is true. There are several contributing factors as to why there are nationwide labor shortages within the foodservice industry. Here are five states struggling to overcome the issue of being short-staffed and some of the reasons why this may be happening.
Many restaurants in St. Louis and surrounding areas in Missouri have been struggling to find employment. For example, the Mission Taco restaurant chain hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic hours due to this ongoing issue. The chain typically hosts a late-night happy hour during the week but can only offer that during Fridays and Saturdays.
In addition, Retreat Gastropub in the Central West End had to eliminate its brunch hours and limit evening hours during the week. Bob Bonney, the Missouri Restaurant Association CEO, mentioned that he’s aware of staff shortages across the state, including at drive-thrus, mom-and-pop restaurants and larger, national chains.
Restaurants across Florida face shortages and are in dire need of workers, says the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
It’s worth noting that Florida has some of the weakest unemployment benefits, and Gov. Ron DeSantis withdrew from the supplemental unemployment assistance program offered by the federal government.
The program offered recipients an extra $300 per week to unemployed Florida workers. Supporters of DeSantis’s move believe this could get more employees back into the workforce.
Unemployment benefits are one reason why many workers are refusing to work right now — if an employee earns more on unemployment than working, it’s no surprise that it would result in a labor shortage.
3. New York
Sue Choi and her husband own several New York City Korean restaurants. They’re trying to hire to support their newest location, Rib No. 7, but have had issues garnering new employees.
Choi told ABC News that she’d barely received phone calls for potential job interviews and sometimes received less than one phone call a week. Restaurants in the Big Apple are struggling to hire staff, and some have decided to close down one day per week, limit their evening hours or provide incentives to applicants to improve their recruiting efforts.
Many restaurant owners are finding it’s not just one reason for the shortage but a collective force of pressures. The risk of exposure to the virus, the unemployment benefit situation and restaurant staff looking to change industries are all contributing factors.
Staffing shortages in Houston and other Texas regions make it challenging for restaurants to operate at 100% capacity. Stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, grocery store demand and the use of third-party food delivery services all play a significant role in the Texas restaurant worker shortage.
Before the pandemic in 2019, 43% of restaurants listed staffing as the No. 1 problem they’ve faced, and the onset of the pandemic only made matters worse. Cameron James, president of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, noted that the number of restaurant workers dropped from 300,000 to less than 250,000 due to the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, Sherry Villanueva, owner and managing partner of Acme Hospitality, had over 350 employees across her restaurants, and as California reopened, only 250 returned to work. Acme Hospitality operates eight eateries, and Villanueva is finding that people have to perform the job of two employees to make up for this ongoing shortage.
Jot Condie, the California Restaurant Association head, said many restaurants had to close during the pandemic. The employment gap is only worsening as time goes on, turning into a full-blown crisis.
How Can Restaurants Remain Efficient While Being Short-Staffed?
Shortages are affecting restaurants nationwide, but they need to operate in a pinch and still serve customers efficiently. How can they achieve this?
Here are some tips for restaurants looking to make the most of their staff:
- Automate processes: Automating invoices can cut costs and save time. Eliminating the need to process them manually can allow owners and managers to better serve customers.
- Foster a sense of teamwork: Workers tend to feel more motivated when restaurant staff feel like one cohesive unit. This naturally improves efficiency on the floor, and fostering a sense of teamwork will prove beneficial.
- Improve recruiting methods: Restaurants that establish a presence on LinkedIn and online job boards and create an easy application form will be better able to focus on efficiency and spend less time calling potential candidates.
Keep these tips in mind as they may come in handy until this labor shortage gets under control.
Managing a Restaurant During an Intense Labor Shortage
These five states and others are facing an unprecedented rate of labor shortages due to increased unemployment benefits and employee fears of exposure. Industry leaders must come together to try to fix this pressing issue.
Devin Partida is a restaurant and business technologies writer. Her work has been featured on Yahoo! Finance, Entrepreneur, AOL and Business2Community. She is also an editor at ReHack.com.