Editorial: The restaurant industry is feeling the effects of labor shortages

“Hiring,” “Help Wanted,” followed by text highlighting how much the job will pay an hour (and a signing bonus!). We’ve all seen these signs in restaurants over the past few months – from fast food outlets to family favorites.

The staff shortages that many restaurants are experiencing are having a negative impact on the services they provide, whether it is limited opening hours, slower service rate or increased prices of their menus.

Therefore, we shouldn’t be too surprised not to get the service we usually expect.

This has been the case for some restaurants near UNC. For example, Omar Castro, the co-owner of Breadman’s, couldn’t provide comment to the Carolina Alumni Review during a busy brunch because the restaurant was so understaffed he had to personally wait for tables.

Another example is Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, located on Franklin Street. Even with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year, the restaurant struggled with opening hours and was understaffed. Dame’s was open for lunch on weekdays and only expanded its hours after hiring new staff.

These examples show that while things may seem to be gradually returning to normal, some aspects could be affected for a long time, even after the worst of the pandemic has passed.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor said employment in food and beverage establishments in May was still 1.5 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels, down about 12%.

There is no one definitive cause for the labor shortage, and it has become a political point of contention. Republicans argue that the unemployment benefits the government has provided during the pandemic are taking away the incentive for people to return to work. Meanwhile, Democrats argue that the often low minimum wage for restaurant labor discourages potential workers from returning.

However, another explanation is that the problem lies with the industry itself and the effects of the pandemic have simply made the problems more apparent.

Many restaurant jobs are very stressful and often have long, inflexible hours for low wages and few benefits. These people also deal with rude customers who will take their frustrations out on employees without a second thought. Additionally, many people may not be comfortable working indoors and interacting with large numbers of people while the pandemic still exists.

According to a survey by Joblist, half of former hospitality workers said they would not return to their previous job, and a third of respondents said they would not fully return to the industry, citing reasons such as wanting a higher salary, better benefits and a new work environment.

As customers, we shouldn’t take our frustrations out on restaurant staff so easily, as they might have to do the work of multiple people while carrying the burden of rude customers and long shifts to compensate for the reduced number. of employees.

The obvious solution to restaurant labor shortages is to increase wages and benefits, as many restaurants have already done. However, it could also mean higher prices that customers have to pay – something Chipotle made headlines for when it announced it was raising prices by around 4% to counter an increase in the average hourly wage. of $15.

While many of us will regret having to pay a little more for food from the places we love, this may be the only way restaurants can once again attract more workers. This may be the new normal.


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Cecil N. Messick