Where are workers leaving the restaurant industry going?
The pandemic has been devastating to many industries, but perhaps none has been hit harder than the restaurant/catering industry, with indoor dining heavily restricted in most states for much of from 2020 and even into 2021. As restaurants reopened first to outdoor dining and then indoors again, many workers said they felt unsafe due to poor health protocols or customers not respecting them. And that’s no surprise, given that restaurant workers were among the many numbers of people who got sick and died of COVID-19 before the vaccine was rolled out.
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According to the Washington Post, millions of restaurant workers have left the industry with no intention of returning despite increasing job openings. According to a report by the non-profit organization One Fair Wage, 53% of all workers surveyed said they had considered quitting their restaurant jobs since COVID-19 hit. This number increases for women – 54% of all women – and 55% of all mothers in this industry were thinking of jumping ship.
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Industry issues before the pandemic
While some of this exodus is certainly pandemic-related, the One Fair Wage report says the industry was already in crisis before the pandemic, especially for women and women of color, who make up the largest some of the workers in these often low-income countries. salaried jobs.
The authors of the report wrote: “As one of the largest employers of women and one of the largest employers of sub-minimum wage workers, restaurant industry plays an outsized role in perpetuating inequalities between women, especially women of color.“
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Their findings show that workers are largely leaving the industry due to low wages and tips, with mothers among the most likely to contract COVID-19 and women reporting a high incidence of sexual harassment.
Other workers who left the industry, like Jim Conway, 64, of Pittsburgh, simply decided to retire early because it wasn’t worth going back. Conway told the Washington Post, “The main issue for me was security. There are many people who do not want to participate in the old ways.
The pandemic has highlighted problems that existed within the industry before COVID-19, according to Crystal Maher, a 36-year-old restaurateur from Austin, Texas. She told the Washington Post: “People forget that restaurant workers have actually suffered decades of abuse and trauma. The pandemic is only the straw that broke the camel’s back. »
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What destination now?
So where are these disenfranchised restaurant workers going? According to the Washington Post, a worker who previously worked in a Chili ended up as a clerk at Walmart in Sarasota, Florida. Another restaurant worker from Memphis, Tennessee, Allan Creasy, quit bartending to get into fundraising. He told the Washington Post, in response to complaints about workers being unemployed too long because the reason the restaurant industry hasn’t rebounded faster, “It’s not that we’re out of work. We did our period of unemployment and we found something else.
A worker named Jeremy Golembiewski from California was laid off from his restaurant job during the pandemic and put himself out of work. During this stint, he was able to spend more time with his children and wife and realized he wanted a lifestyle change. He’s polishing his resume and looking for jobs in retail, insurance and data entry, according to NPR.
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A related industry that woos these disenfranchised restaurant workers is customer service in areas such as health and other hospitality, as many restaurant workers already have the necessary skills, according to Restaurant Business website.
And in some areas, grocery stores have been able to glean former restaurant workers to keep them employed.
The job loss even prompted the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) to partner with a technology company, Eightfold.ai, to create a national job board that connects human resources and business leaders to employees who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. They use AI algorithms to match job seekers with open positions.
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Respecialization and remote work
Other former restaurant and catering workers have taken the time to retrain for new careers. Lifelong bartender Ellen Booth, 57, was tired of dragging ice buckets and kegs of beer before the pandemic hit. She was tired and in pain and had wanted to change careers for some time, but felt limited by her lack of a college degree. When the pandemic hit, it gave her “the kick I needed,” she told ABC10. She has started a course to become a medical coder, a job that will be much easier on her body and that she can do remotely.
The option of remote work is another effect of the pandemic on workers in general. Remote work can provide more opportunities for work-life balance, reduce stress and travel costs, and allow workers to set their own schedules. Restaurant workers can turn to less physically demanding and better paying jobs, with remote options that allow them to spend more time with family or spend less money on childcare.
” We have changed. The job has changed. The way we think about time and space has changed,” Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book “Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere,” told NPR.
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Last update: July 1, 2021