Labor Pains in Hospitality: Workers Won’t Return to the Industry, Ever.

As restrictions surrounding the pandemic ease across the country, many Americans are ramping up to return to “normal” life. This means dining out, going to meet friends for drinks, summer leisure travel. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, so what could go wrong?

Quite a bit, actually.

Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant on a Friday night after months of waiting to go back and order your favorite meal. You (and countless others) are brimming with excitement at the chance to go back to life pre-pandemic. But you notice service is slow, employees are frantically running around managing tables, and the food doesn’t taste quite like you remembered.

What gives?

According to a recent Bloomberg News article, a staggering 50% of U.S. hospitality workers said they wouldn’t return to their old jobs, even if they received more pay. Of the restaurant, bar, and hotel workers surveyed, a third aren’t considering reentering the industry. Ever.

While turnover has always presented a challenge in the hospitality industry, it feels different in 2021. Before the pandemic, the turnover rate in the hospitality industry hovered at 78.9% in 2019. In 2020, that number surged to 130.7% – with troublesome implications for the future, to say the least.

But the country is reopening. Isn’t this a good sign for the industry?

A survey conducted by the Labor Department reveals that job openings in the hospitality industry hit a record number in May, meaning employers are still struggling to fill spots. To be fair, it is a considerable challenge to transition gracefully from a 5-year low in unemployment and increasing minimum wages to a historic loss of 7.7 million jobs lost in a matter of months.

Moving forward, companies must tackle these challenges head on. In March 2021, only 28.4% of restaurant operators were employing 80-100% of their pre-COVID employees. That means over 70% of restaurants are forced to do more with less.

If companies can’t find a way to improve employment rates, there may be a challenge in meeting the surging demand of customers, which will hinder the overall recovery in the industry.

If the Bloomberg News article is right, then employees are looking for higher pay, a less physically demanding workplace, and better benefits. Maybe this isn’t achievable at your company, at least not right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t position yourselves to attract more employees.

One thing is for certain: in a post-COVID world, you can’t afford to lose more employees if you want to keep your customers happy.

It’s safe to say that a full recovery in the hospitality industry will take years and will require developing a robust strategy to attract and keep top talent.

What will your strategy be?

Leveraging Your Mystery Shopping Data

Finding gaps in your processes can be an opportunity to engage with staff and improve customer experience.

A Measure of Excellence

MSI has sent evaluators into hundreds of businesses and institutions that range from hotels, restaurants and retail stores, to hospitals and health care centers. Our question sets, and the data our evaluators return, have informed management and C-level leadership since 1954, helping them shape the strategies that guide consistent service and ambiance.

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