The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ labor data from Nov. 2021 shows what the restaurant industry has long been experiencing: people are quitting foodservice in droves. According to the report released on Jan. 4, quit rates for the accommodation and foodservice industry has grown from 4.8% to 6.9% over the past year, a larger jump than any other sector listed.
Despite the growing quit rate, hiring has largely remained stagnant over the past year, with restaurant industry hiring rates at 8.1% in both Nov. 2020 and Nov. 2021, while most other industries saw at least modest hiring growth. Because of this widening chasm between restaurants needing workers and employees leaving the industry, the rate of foodservice job openings has grown significantly from 5.8% to 8.4% over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For restaurant operators experiencing labor shortages every day in the trenches, these numbers are not surprising. Restaurant job growth has largely remained stagnant over the second half of 2021, and restaurant owners are scrambling to offer higher wages, benefits and even unique benefits to attract and retain employees like buying workers cars or paying student employees to do their homework during shifts. According to Black Box Intelligence data the prevalence of flexible scheduling, for example, was up 54% in 2021.
Beyond benefits, experts are strongly encouraging employers to rethink how they approach leadership and management to help boost failing employee morale.
“Should we be so surprised [that people are quitting] when mostly what we’re trying to do is manipulate them?” Former Chipotle co-CEO Monty Moran said in the keynote session at Informa’s CREATE conference in October.
As employees get fed up, union activity is buzzing. Following one Starbucks store successfully becoming the only unionized Starbucks store in the country, several other restaurants — both in Starbucks and other companies — around the country are following suit and filing petitions for union elections. Other employees are staging walkouts: On Thanksgiving, several Boston Market stores unexpectedly closed due to employee walkouts protesting 14-hour shifts at understaffed restaurants with broken equipment.
“It is not surprising that the restaurant industry has the highest quit rate of any other industry,” Wesley Suitt, Client Success Manager at hiring solutions platform, Harver, said.
“The restaurant industry has always had high turnover rates, but the pandemic has exacerbated that fact. Workers are leaving due to many reasons, some legacy reasons and some due to COVID-19, like low compensation and poor benefits coupled with long hours, and potential exposure to COVID. Others are leaving simply because of a desire to change career paths.”
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