DALLAS Recruiting and retaining employees has become much less difficult for restaurant operators as the industry continues reeling from the effects of the recession, according to the People Report Workforce Index, a quarterly barometer of foodservice employment.
For the first time since the index report began three years ago, every industry segment indicated lower levels of concern or activity in recruiting and turnover going into the first quarter of 2009, which ends March 31. But the segments also were reporting lower employment levels, higher vacancies and little expectation to increase or decrease head counts, both for management and hourly workers.
More than 80 companies, representing quick-service, fast-casual/family-dining, casual-dining and fine-dining/high-volume restaurants, participated in the survey.
After adding 60,000 jobs in the first half of 2008, the industry shed jobs in the final five months of the year. This coincided with a rise in the national unemployment rate, which hit 7.8 percent at the end of the year.
In the final three months of 2008, just 11 percent of restaurant companies participating in the survey said they had increased their management ranks, while 46 percent decreased their number of management positions. Only 27 percent of companies reported increases in the number of hourly jobs available.
The index showed most companies are consolidating their hourly workforce and taking a wait-and-see approach to staffing in the first three months of 2009. Approximately 40 percent of companies said they expect to reduce their hourly workforce, with just 24 percent expecting to increase hourly positions this quarter.
Both quick-service and fast-casual/family operators still anticipate employment growth for this quarter, while casual-dining and fine-dining operators are less optimistic, as consumers continue to trade down in their restaurant choices.
“The only places where you see even slight optimism is in quick service and fast casual,” said Joni Doolin, chief executive and founder of People Report, a Dallas-based firm that tracks human resource practices for about 100 member companies.