As more stores and restaurants have reopened, some establishments have found themselves in a unique position that was not as prevalent pre-Pandemic. Restauranteurs and hiring managers are asking the question, “Where have all the hospitality workers gone?” Many businesses that have managed to survive and in some instances, thrive during the pandemic, are now positioning to full opening and longer hours. There is a labour shortage however which has curtailed and challenged some of these plans.
Why are some restauranteurs having difficulty refilling previous positions? In every area of food service, restaurants, catering companies and the like are having difficulty finding qualified staff to fill vacant positions. This shortage has also impacted long term care facilities whose dietary departments have also suffered hiring challenges. Where did the food handlers go? There are many reasons, one reason is some previous staff members have retrained and left the industry altogether.
Others have opted to not return until they are fully vaccinated or are comfortable that the virus and its variants do not pose a threat to their health and wellbeing. Another school of thought blames government income replacement programs which have given workers the option to delay their return to the workplace. The latter being controversial and open to many different opinions. With some service workers earning wages barely above minimum wage, the incentive to return to the industry is not there for workers.
With the pandemic there was also a marked decrease in immigration which also affected the industry which relies heavily on that sector for their workforce. Regardless of the reason behind shortages in different regions, the onus is on owners, supervisors, managers, hiring committees, and employees themselves to adapt to these shortages. These adaptations have manifested in many ways. Some restaurants have shortened their hours of operation and others have resorted to increasing salaries, profit sharing and extending benefits to employees.
Enhanced food safety and sanitizing practices have been brought to the forefront during the pandemic resulting in some establishments needing extra staff to address these additional requirements and protocols. In an industry that is slowly recovering and innovating in the face of many challenges, it will be interesting to see what other innovations and solutions are adopted to address this unprecedented labour shortage. We will follow up in Part 2 and see how the industry has rebounded and how these solutions have impacted that recovery.
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