Skip navigation

From the editor: Think differently about the labor crisis

Jenna-Telesca.gifNRN editors take you beyond the headlines and offer perspectives on the issues and events shaping the industry. Get more inside takes from Behind the Story >> 

Restaurant people are an opinionated bunch who don’t agree on a whole lot.

There’s one thing they mostly agree on, though. It’s hard to recruit good employees — and it’s even harder to hold on to them.

“Any cook could walk out of our kitchen and have a job in 20 minutes,” said Kelly Fields, chef partner of the New Orleans restaurant Willa Jean, where she employs a team of 115.

Speaking at the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Conference in Minneapolis, Fields said that New Orleans restaurants also face unique challenges — infrastructure issues making it hard for employees to get to work and double the number of restaurants serving a signifcantly smaller population than in the past.

“I wouldn’t have a labor crisis if I could hire undocumented workers,” commented one WCR conference attendee from the audience, who said she was from South Florida.

Workforce concerns extend across the industry, so much so that Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee said earlier this year that the company would be investing $20 million of tax benefts into retaining workers at the company’s 1,600 locations.

“We thought this was the appropriate time to pass through some of these savings to our team members and workforce,” said Lee at the ICR conference in Orlando, Fla.

NRN_5_6_19_CVR_770wide.jpgWorkforce investments are necessary to stem turnover costs — which are $10,000 for managers and $1,800 for an hourly employee, according to analytics frm TDn2K. Aside from the recruiting inconvenience, turnover turns into some serious dollars, fast.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to convincing people to work for your restaurants and convincing them to stay.

And yes, I said convince.

Right now, Americans have many options on where to work. It’s up to you to make your company an attractive place to make a career.

It’s a tall order when the shape of the workforce is changing every day — with tech infuences and demands, changing legislation and new third-party partners.

But rest assured, you are not alone. If you page through our magazine archives over the past several decades, you’ll notice that workforce challenges have always been a constant. And the restaurant industry is still going strong.

Your restaurant forefathers and mothers made it work; you will too.

Read more:

What's hospitality in the era of technology?

Growing labor costs force restaurants to adjust prices

3 tools to working within the gig economy​​​​​​​

Tactics to fight store-level turnover​​​​​​​

The benefits (and disadvantages) to C-suite recruiting from outside the industry​​​​​​​

Restaurants adapt to the new reality of today’s workforce​​​​​​​

The data


Contact Jenna Telesca at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @JennaTelesca

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.