Staffing Challenges in the Restaurant Industry


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."


The News Tribune


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Chef Shortage in Restaurant Kitchens



"There aren’t enough qualified cooks — or unqualified cooks," says a restaurant owner.

Small diners and fancy, fine dining restaurants are both facing the same problem – the extreme shortage of cooks in the kitchen. This was not an issue before. Co-owner and chef Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill stated, "If I had a position open in the kitchen, I might have 12 resumes, call in 3 or 4 to [try out] in the kitchen, and make a decision [a few years ago]," Now, that is not that case... Actually, it is the other way around. Restaurants are now constantly chasing after applicants, hoping to catch a break from the 'chef drought'.

There are several speculations as to why there has been a lack of chefs in the kitchen.

Too many restaurants opening

Restaurants are popping up left and right at an unbelievable pace, due to the resurgence in the economy. In a typical year, there would be around ten openings in downtown Denver, but in 2014, there were nearly 50. With that many new establishments being set up, there is not enough chefs to fill the open positions.

Age of instant success

In the past, restaurant workers would have to earn their stripes in the kitchen. They would need to work their way up in the ranks, starting at entry-level positions and then eventually in a few years time, they would hold executive-level titles. Nowadays, people have become impatient. They want everything, now, now, now!

Millennials are under the impression that success occurs instantaneously, and is something that does not need to be worked for. One reason is because of the whole 'TV chef' phenomenon. People think they could just hit it big by winning MasterChef or Top Chef. Chris Coombs, chef/owner of Boston Urban Hospitality, said, "They all want to be Anthony Bourdain. The television era has warped the perception of how much work it takes to get from where they are to where [Bourdain] is."

Pay is low

Of course, when it comes down to it, money matters. The total cost of culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America tips at more than $30K a year. However, starting annual salaries ranging from $22,000 to $35,000 are not cutting it. Recent graduates have personal living costs and growing student loans to pay. Living off such low wages are nearly impossible in urban cities. In turn, young job seekers are applying to big companies and restaurant chains, which have the ability to pay more and with benefits.

What can a restaurant do?

Our main focus at Harri is to make the hiring process easier, cost efficient as well as be your solution for industry wide challenges like the one mentioned in this article. Harri is a hospitality-focused startup created by a restauranteur for restauranteurs, so we truly understand the pain points associated with hiring in this industry. We are working tirelessly to bring happiness back to hiring in hospitality. Learn more about what Harri does and all that it has to offer in the video below:

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