The Real Reasons Restaurants Are Short Staffed
Unless you’ve been living under a Covid-free rock for the last 18 months you’ve probably heard there’s a serious shortage of restaurant workers in this country. It seems that after years of customers telling waiters and waitress to go get “real jobs,” that’s exactly what they did. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November of last year. One million of those people were in the leisure and hospitality industry. So why are service industry workers dropping their jobs like plates of food that have been sitting under a heat lamp for three hours? The most obvious answer is because of Covid, but it’s more complicated than that.
While Covid was responsible for the shutting down of over 100,000 restaurants at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of the people who worked in those restaurants chose to not come back. And many of them who did go back, eventually ended up leaving again.
Carol: “After 30+ years in the industry, my body is falling apart. Plus covid dropped the guest count, so I had to work twice as many hours for the same money.” It simply became too much work for some people. With the restrictions on seating capacity and the reduction of restaurant hours, servers were working twice as hard for half as much money.
Rebecca: I’m a single parent, so when the shut down happened and I lost my job, I had to find something that wouldn’t be in danger of going away so quickly again.” With Covid surges happening every few weeks and variants mutating faster than a speeding bullet, no one is certain what the future holds. Restaurants could be forced to close again at any time and plenty of restaurant workers needed something more stable to depend on.
Aaron: “After 15 years…Last day was November 5th 2021. I quit because (for me) it wasn’t worth it any more. I was making myself sick to my stomach every shift I had to work. The customers were just awful. The good ones just couldn’t make up for the bad.” The number of customers who are taking out their Covid frustrations on their servers is escalating with alarming severity. Just last week a Connecticut man was arrested for throwing tantrum over a smoothie. He also threw an actual smoothie at a worker. Consequently, he was fired from his job at Merrill Lynch.
Angel: “The stress was not worth it anymore. Waitresses only make $2.13 cents an hour plus tips in Indiana. I was also sick of paying hundreds in taxes every year.” After months and months of not working at all, many servers decided that making less than minimum wage was no longer okay with them. Many customers seem to be tipping less and if someone is making a few dollars an hour as a wage and not getting decent tips to make up the difference, what is the point?
Randie: “I left 5 months ago after 22 years, and it was the best decision I ever made. People were just getting too awful and more rude by the day. I just was done getting treated like shit.” Again, too many customers are misdirecting their anger at service workers. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that life is too precious to be treated like crap. No one wants to go to work and have a customer tell them they want to “punch them in the fucking face.”
So, why are restaurants so short-staffed these days? The short answer is: the pandemic. The longer and more truthful answer is that the pandemic opened the eyes of many service workers who realized they were not getting what they deserve from their jobs. They left the industry to find something else to do for a living that is more reliable, pays more money, and doesn’t whittle down their self-worth with each shift. There will always be a need for restaurant workers, but maybe eventually, customers will recognize how vital these workers are and finally begin to appreciate them. Until that happens, expect to keep seeing “Now Hiring” signs in every restaurant across the country.