Where Have All the Hospitality, Restaurant, and Retail Workers Gone?

The pandemic has completely changed how the hospitality industry works. The hospitality industry lost millions of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic as the sector shut down and people were told to stay in their homes. As a result, many chefs and wait staff were laid off. While the U.S. government launched the American Rescue Plan, which extended employment assistance to those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, this insurance expired at the end of 2021 and employees were no longer able to take advantage of these benefits. 

Though the hospitality industry is gaining momentum again as the world overcomes the pandemic, things have not been the same. The hospitality industry is still down by 6.1% (around 750,000 jobs) from pre-pandemic levels and the industry has also changed a lot in terms of the kind of customer service they offer. Customers are noticing the difference, and many have noted short staffing as one considerable challenge within the hospitality industry today. They are witnessing long wait times, product shortages, and sometimes even worse customer service. Many customers have also become less happy with fast food chains, realizing the importance of healthy eating during the pandemic, and many have become less satisfied with restaurant cleanliness and the accuracy of their orders.

Coffee worker

Compared to other sectors, restaurants are lagging in terms of recovery. Hospitality workers are in a place to demand better work environments and compensation, and numerous organizations and worker unions have been lobbying for better conditions. Many hospitality workers who left their jobs during the pandemic sought a better, more flexible schedule and higher pay. While some came back to the industry, others have gravitated to other sectors, such as retail, healthcare, transportation, and education. These staffing issues have put even more pressure on the hospitality industry, which was already struggling due to inflation. As such, the main focus of the hospitality industry has shifted to not only hiring workers, but retaining them long-term. 

What Is the Way Forward?

The pandemic is not the only culprit that drove workers away from the hospitality sector. Instead, it allowed many employees to reassess what they really wanted. Low employee satisfaction has always plagued the hospitality industry. Reasons for this include a lack of flexibility, high stress, workload, difficult customers, and the physical demands of the job. One of the biggest concerns of restaurant workers is poor treatment by customers. Similarly, most hospitality workers are overworked, regularly completing 12 to 14-hour shifts. As such, the hospitality industry currently does not provide workers with a sustainable work-life balance. Therefore, hospitality leaders need to take progressive steps that will attract and retain employees, such as creating a positive work environment, offering opportunities for career progression, and scheduling workers for more reasonable hours. 

hospitality worker
  1. Positive Work Culture 

A positive work culture can go a long way toward improving employee retention. This may include respecting employees’ time off, decreasing burnout and stress, implementing anti-harassment policies, and reducing overworking. Employers should try to be as flexible as possible if they want to compete with other hospitality businesses and different sectors. 

  1. Career Progression

One of the most important things for employees is the chance to progress in their job and career. Employers should be able to demonstrate to their employees that their job is not a dead-end and there are growth opportunities within the company. Employers should take the time to highlight these progression opportunities during the hiring process. 

  1. Smart Scheduling 

One of the most significant issues for hospitality employees is a lack of flexibility in their jobs. Employers can use historical employee records to develop smart scheduling systems that predict how much labor they would need for housekeeping, maintenance, and catering. These systems can also give employees more flexibility to pick up shifts or trade shifts with other employees. 
At KangarooStar, we believe in creating a flexible work environment for employees so that they can advance in their career journey. KangarooStar is your one-hop stop for data-driven job matching, career development, hiring trends, and professional assessment. Learn more about how you can leverage advanced recruiting solutions, such as pre-recorded interviews, to attract the best candidate for the job!