Where Are All the Restaurant Workers? Some Have Moved On.

Restaurants are calling former employees back to work, but not all of them are ready to return. The leisure and hospitality sector has long had the lowest wages for nonsupervisory roles among major industries, according to the Labor Department, and many workers have taken their talents to higher-paying industries with more stability. Here are three things you should know before you go out for dinner or book your next hotel stay.

1. Hospitality isn’t bouncing back like other sectors.

Employment in the restaurants and bars sector is down by 1.3 million jobs since the pandemic began, despite adding 194,000 jobs in June. But it has bounced back beyond pre-pandemic levels in many other sectors, including warehousing and storage, management and technical consulting, and insurance and finance. 

2. Restaurants are trying to lure workers with perks.

From free pancakes to flexible hours, many restaurants are exploring perks that will help them better compete for labor. Restaurants will need to look into offering better pay, good benefits and more flexibility to coax workers back, according to a survey by Wall Street firm BTIG. Chipotle, McDonald’s and Olive Garden have all announced wage increases this year. Overall hourly wages for nonsupervisory employees in the sector rose more than any job category, federal data show. McDonald’s franchisees are exploring perks like emergency child care and transportation vouchers. Chipotle has also boosted its mental health programs and started accepting applicant resumes through TikTok.

3. This could mark a lasting shift in the labor market.

Some economists say the exodus could spell labor challenges for the sector that persist well beyond September, when the enhanced federal unemployment benefits that have helped keep some low-wage workers from returning to jobs are set to expire. It’s unclear whether higher wages, signing bonuses and other perks will be enough to bring workers back, and those who do return may face being asked to do more to help keep short-staffed operations afloat.

Read the original article by Heather Haddon, Te-Ping Chen and Lauren Weber here

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