Labor/help situation. A crisis?

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Joined Jan 8, 2006
I can't be the only one experiencing a shortage of trained help and general laborers. Do you feel this is going to be the "new normal" or something more short lived? How are you coping? I see a number of restaurants reducing hours or even days of operation, and trimming menu items. I talk with other operators/owners, and hear mention of greater automation, greater reliance on commercially prepped ingredients, and of new methods of prep/service that reduces the need for so much staff.
With a return to dining out, and with my restaurant and others seeing record numbers, it is numbing to see the toll this is taking on my managers and staff.
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
If you Google "long hours and little pay" you will see a picture of a restaurant.

I see a number of restaurants reducing hours or even days of operation, and trimming menu items. I talk with other operators/owners, and hear mention of greater automation, greater reliance on commercially prepped ingredients, and of new methods of prep/service that reduces the need for so much staff.

That's an attitude that only makes the problem worse. Instead of figuring out ways to attract and retain good workers like other good businesses do, this is basically saying screw you if you don't want to work for me on my terms.

And with that attitude it's a wonder anybody does.
 
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I am just not understanding you on this. Are you saying that there is no shortage of workers in the hospitality field? All across America I see a shortage of workers, and I see restaurants and caterers curtailing operations. I was not addressing any reasons for this, and not suggesting any remedies, just stating that there is an issue. I am not being judgmental with regards to any side of the issue.
I have been in the food biz for over 50 years as an owner, manager, operator. I fully realize that working in the industry has always been known for long hours, pay issues and other issues. That is not in question. My post was an observation of current conditions.
 
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No, there is no shortage of workers. Just people who are willing to work in the hospitality field. You just gave the reason- "working in the industry has always been known for long hours, pay issues and other issues".

During covid people have learned to adjust to not having their jobs. Maybe it's UI and stimulous checks that help them, maybe some other kind of job, maybe different living arrangements. All they know is whatever they are doing now is better than going back to that.

So if you want to attract good employees you are going to have to make changes to the way you do business to make employment competitive with other industries in term of hours, pay and benefits.
 
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Joined May 1, 2019
No, there is no shortage of workers. Just people who are willing to work in the hospitality field. You just gave the reason- "working in the industry has always been known for long hours, pay issues and other issues".

During covid people have learned to adjust to not having their jobs. Maybe it's UI and stimulous checks that help them, maybe some other kind of job, maybe different living arrangements. All they know is whatever they are doing now is better than going back to that.

So if you want to attract good employees you are going to have to make changes to the way you do business to make employment competitive with other industries in term of hours, pay and benefits.
Ya dude those adjustments are going to attract nothing but dust people are to reliant on stimulus and UI, they MAKE WAY MORE MONEY than being in a kitchen with less stress.
 

nicko

Founder of Cheftalk.com
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mannlicher mannlicher you are not the only one experiencing this. It is across the board for many industries. There are few small mom and pop take out places I pass where there isn't a sign "we are hiring". According to halb halb comments you "should figure out" ways to attract team members and retain them. But I feel that is an over simplification of the current situation. There is a hard reality of how much a small carry out place can pay their employees. At a certain point people won't want to pay $75.00 for a large cheese and sausage. Throw in all the additional costs for insurance, overhead etc and it is even tougher for restaurants. Recently Chipotle commented that they are raising their prices by due to increased labor costs. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/09/business/chipotle-higher-prices-wages.html

So I don't have a good answer for you it is a tough situation. At some point the "bill comes due" as they say and it seems that in the current restaurant climate the cost increase will be passed onto the consumer. The real question is how much are we willing to pay for tacos and pizza.
 
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I all boils down to knowing how to run a business and that's knowledge sadly lacking with most small businesses. Most small business owners are proficient at whatever it is that they do or sell but have no idea how to make a profitable business out of doing it. So you can't expect them to pay employees fairly or price their goods where they can.
 
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If your [note: I'm not referring to the OP] business's success is predicated on a large pool of hard workers willing to work long hours for substandard pay, you're probably going to have to develop another business plan. I think essentially shutting the world down for a year caused a lot of people to take a hard look at their lives, and a lot of them didn't like what they saw. To make it tougher for restaurants a lot of jobs are permanently going to remote work; that will make it even harder to lure people into long shifts on their feet in hot kitchens.

There will probably be a realignment in the industry. Frankly there's too much capacity or at least there was before COVID. In a good economy when people have money to eat out ten times a week even the weaker places might stay afloat. I expect a culling of the places that aren't well run, and in places with tight labor markets. And while it was sad to see the makers of buggy whips close their doors in the long run we're better off with cars than horse-drawn coaches. People are used to heavily subsidized fast food (grain and beef being sold for less than the cost to produce, wages well under what it costs to live) but it will likely go away. It's maybe not a bad thing in the long run for products to be more honestly priced.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Eventually stimulus money will run out and people will get more desperate for income. Some of those folks will permanently leave the restaurant workforce taking jobs in customer service, etc. To entice workers back will probably require higher wages and maybe benefits, and yes, that may result in higher prices. I think creating a better work environment would help a lot. That could be more flexible scheduling (something I've found people to really respond to).

Locally I'm seeing businesses adjusting by limiting their hours or even closing certain days. That may be a change businesses will have to embrace. As much as I've loved being a chef, I think the time's they're a changin'. Workers are starting to understand how undervalued and exploited they've been for the last forty or fifty years.
 
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So I guess the big question is:

Are restaurant owners evil greedy ( deleted), or are they merely conduits of what the public wants?

Its true that owners who expect to stay afloat when they cant even pay themselves a salary are a big reason why the wages in this industry are so low, but the public have to take some of the blame too, demanding low prices, and always seeking out the cheaper options. Then again, with so much competition to choose from, who can really blame them?

The times are a'changing, and as a 50+ year ' lifer" in this industry I should be able to retire in about 5 years. I really dont care how things will change, but change they will. Sounds cruel coming from a lifer, but honestly? There's waaaay too much competition out there.
 
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So I guess the big question is:

Are restaurant owners evil greedy ( deleted), or are they merely conduits of what the public wants?
What did Ash say? Good, bad, I'm the guy with the gun. I think it has little to do with "good guys" or "bad guys" and more to do with economic realities. It would be great if every business owner could work for five years and then do an IPO and retire to the Caymans. But the American Dream is now mostly already rich people getting richer. Owning a restaurant was never a reliable a road to riches, and now it's even less so. The market will change and adapt. The good news is that's capitalism! The Holy Unseen Hand doesn't make mistakes, or at least that's what I've heard all my life. So I guess whatever we get is what The Market requires. Can at least rejoice knowing we're serving market forces!
 
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Joined Jan 17, 2015
The sector is oversaturated, too much competition out there as foodpump said. Everybody chasing the same buck, unreasonable landlords, taxes etc only add to the problem it would be interesting to see what happens. I am 55 years old and have spend more than half of these long years in the business and have no clue. I wish I could offer a solution but for the life of me I can't. It does feel like watching a train crash happening in slow motion....
 
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I'm on the fence. This may all return to some other kind of normal after UI and stimulus runs out. For now, people make money to pay bills with a little left over without having to work.
"Work ethic doesn't pay the bills."
Perhaps, and I say it lightly, some will return.
 
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In a few months the extra money will run out and people will start having to come to grips with reality. There wasn't really an incentive for some of these people to come back to work when they can make twice the money sitting at home.

On a side note it is an employee market right now and there is a lot of competition with wages around here at least to grab people up. So your problem may not be that there is a total labor shortage, rather a shortage of labor willing to work for you at your current rates.
 
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