With the economy fully open, and restaurants back in business, it now looks like the biggest problem that will face the food industry will be labor shortages. The return to open status brought with it a complete change in the foodservice industry. Restaurants were forced into a hybrid business model that combined protracted on-site service with an immense gain in online and third-party-delivery orders. Of course, one may think that a greater reliance on technology would reduce the need for labor, but as we saw with the advent of the industrial revolution, things only get busier.
To that point, a recent State of the Restaurant Industry Report by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) projects 400,000 new jobs to be created for a total industry employment of 14.9 million by the end of 2022. A not insignificant 1.7 million jobs were gained in 2021 for a year-end total of 14.5 million. But despite that growth, labor is still a major problem for food businesses.
The report goes on to say that 70% of its survey respondents do not have enough staff to meet customer demand. Around 50% say that staffing will be the greatest challenge they will face for the remainder of the year. About 75% said that they will pour more time and resources into recruiting and retaining employees.
The NRA’s report does not cover institutional food service, such as healthcare foodservice. However, that industry is feeling the same pressure, but with an added hurdle: prospective employees not only need to meet the details of the job description, but they are required by law to be fully vaccinated and boosted. Add to that low pay and a fear of working in a healthcare setting during a pandemic, and one could argue staffing concerns in healthcare kitchens are even greater.