After an incredibly disastrous 2020, the restaurant industry is making its comeback. The National Restaurant Association projects restaurant and food service industry sales will jump nearly 20% to $789 billion this year, from $659 billion in 2020.
Now that sales are picking back up, the industry is facing serious labor challenges. In the United States, 75% of operators saying recruiting and retaining workers was their top business challenge — the highest level recorded in the 20 years the group has tracked this data. There is not a single business across the food supply chain that isn’t aware of, or is directly affected by, the impacts of the crippling labor shortages we are currently facing. The challenges are not new, but the current situation is the worst and most widespread the food industry has experienced for many years.
Furthermore, Labor challenges aren’t likely to wane anytime soon. The industry has thrown the kitchen sink at the employment issue, wooing workers with free iPhones, French fries, college courses, and more. In fact, the industry’s wages grew by 10% in Q2, the highest increase in years, facilitated in part by a 4% increase in menu prices through June 2021.
Despite these efforts, the quit rate in the industry is historically high, with workers citing not just pay, but also COVID safety and harassment issues as their reasons for going elsewhere and not coming back to the industry.