Staffing Challenges in the Restaurant Industry

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In addition to the challenge of hiring cooks and chefs to work the kitchen, waiters and waitresses are becoming harder to find. Based on a recent survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association, more than 50 percent of restaurant owners say that it is extremely difficult to find and keep good workers.

The reason, simply, because of supply and demand.

There is a huge need for restaurant workers, both front of house and back of house, since the U.S. Department of Agricultures reports that people are spending more time and money dining out. Americans are spending approximately 43 cents of every food dollar away from home. Michael Latour, a restaurant owner from New Jersey states, "The economy is good, and people are spending more money than ever in the hospitality industry. We're living in an area that's saturated with restaurants."

However, there just isn't enough workers to support all the restaurants. (Or at least, not enough workers willing to.)

Restaurant owners and managers understand that it is not so easy working in the restaurant environment. Tony Del Gatto says to work at his country club, a chef has to work six days a week, 12 hours a day, for both lunch and dinner services. That's more than 70 hours a week! The long hours are not only burdensome for both cooks and waiters, they are also taxing on their health, as they have to be on their feet all the time.

In addition, workers are not willing to accept low salaries anymore. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant wages range from a measly $8 an hour for dishwashers and to almost $20 for bartenders. Chefs earn about $12 an hour, while waiters and waitresses get about $16 (with tips included). Christine Nunn, a restaurant owner and chef states, "People come out of the Culinary Institute of America with a lot of debt, and they're not paying it off at $12 an hour."

Sadly, restaurants are unable to afford to pay more. Most restaurants already work on thin profit margins of only 4 to 6 percent.

Some analysts have noted that a slowdown in immigration may be another cause. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' reports reveal that 11 percent of Hispanic workers hold jobs in the restaurant and hospitality field. Furthermore, workers have difficulty in finding accessible transport to suburban restaurant jobs.

Fortunately, there are those who continue to stay and work in the fast paced environment of restaurants. Servers express that they love the bonds and interactions that make with customers, and chefs enjoy working with food too much to leave.

Michael De Vincenzi, a maitre d' states, "I want to be busy. I want it to be hectic. I like the stress. It's all adrenaline."


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