Most Operators Still Don’t Have Enough Employees to Meet Demand

With a net of 26,300 jobs in December, the restaurant industry has now added jobs for 24 consecutive months, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In all, the restaurant industry has recovered 2.2 million of the jobs lost since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the National Restaurant Association notes the industry is still 450,000 jobs (3.6 percent) below its pre-pandemic staffing level – the largest employment deficit of all U.S. industries.

A survey conducted by the association in November found that 62 percent of operators still do not have enough employees to support their existing customer demand. Operators in the fast casual (65 percent), family dining (65 percent) and casual dining (64 percent) segments were the most likely to report an employee shortfall, and eight in 10 restaurant operators said they currently had job openings that were difficult to fill.

Despite the challenges in hiring people, a strong majority of restaurants expect to increase their staffing levels this year. Eighty-even percent of operators said they would likely hire additional employees during the next six to 12 months if qualified applicants are available.

Competition for those available employees is likely to remain fierce in at least the short term, as the BLS reported there were still 10.458 million job openings on the last day of November, down only slightly from 10.512 million job openings the month before.