Restaurant Employee Dissatisfaction Persists – What are the Reasons?

October 12, 2021

Photo courtesy of Recruiter

This summer saw thousands of American restaurant workers quit their jobs – jumpstarting what has been dubbed “the Great Resignation.” This mass resignation can be attributed to a multitude of reasons, exacerbated and illuminated by the pandemic, which explains why operators have been struggling to repair the dwindling workforce. Here are the driving forces and trends observed by a Joblist survey of 25,000 job seekers across the nation. 

Pandemic-Strengthened Dissatisfaction 

The survey found that 1/3 of hospitality workers reported being “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their jobs, with 15% having been unsatisfied already pre-pandemic. This attests to the pandemic’s role in worsening the situation. According to the survey, 45% of hospitality employees who remained in the industry reported lower job satisfaction, and those who are dissatisfied are twice as likely to say they are planning to quit than those who are satisfied – at 80 and 39% respectively. 

Why Leave the Industry?

The survey found that 25% of hospitality workers reported they would not want to work in the industry again, with a shocking 58% reporting they are planning to quit before the end of 2021. Why is the hospitality industry generating such strong sentiments? Workers have historically cited the industry’s low pay and lack of benefits as leading reasons, however, other issues are currently at play as well. 

The primary reasons found in this survey include: low pay (56%), desire for a new career path (50%), lack of benefits (39%), difficult customers (38%), scheduling inflexibility and long hours (34%), COVID-19 risk (23%), and the physical demands of work (23%). For those who had already left, the primary reasons include: poor treatment by their employer during the pandemic (19%), low pay or lack of benefits (17%), and lack of work-life balance (13%) as key reasons. Contrary to popular belief, remote work was not a leading factor – with only 3% reporting that they quit because they did not want to return to in-person work. What remains true, however, is that fear of being infected with Covid-19 remains a factor. According to a survey conducted by Snagajob and Black Box Intelligence, 65% of hourly employees want the business to keep their mask mandates for their customers, and 83% plan to wear masks while working to keep themselves safe regardless of business and state requirements. 

This is not to forget the rampant abuse that employees have reported over the course of the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by Snagajob and Black Box Intelligence, the most significant finding is that this abuse is not just coming from customers; while more than 3/5 of restaurant employees report suffering emotional abuse or disrespect from customers, nearly half have endured it from managers. 

So where did they go? For those former hospitality workers who switched industries, 17% switched to an in-person office job while another 17% found a work-from-home job; more specifically, these workers found positions in industrial settings (13%), healthcare (11%), and as drivers (6%). The notoriously high turnover rates of the hospitality industry, coupled with the current labor shortage, has made it extremely costly to replace employees this year; per Black Box calculations, that turnover cost is around $14,689 for a general manager, $8,119 for a manager, and $1,869 for an hourly worker. 

What Could Fix the Situation?

Perhaps just as important as what is making hospitality workers leave is what could keep them in the industry. All data points to the same answer: employees would stay if some, not all, of their grievances were properly addressed by employers; according to Joblist, if this was the case, about 1/3 would change their mind. 

One effective recruiting tactic, that is spoken about less than traditional promises of increased benefits or higher wages, is brand perception. According to Black Box chief revenue officer, Greg Kingen, “one of the things I’ve seen during the course of the pandemic is how you talk about yourselves in social media and out in public,” he said. “I’ve seen great campaigns talking about your history, your legacy, your culture. [Those] things I think are really, really important. They really resonate with people who are considering coming to work.” In Kingen’s experience, “people want to belong to something they consider to be worthwhile. If they’re going to spend significant hours working with you and for you, they want to believe that there is a greater mission behind what you do.” 

Another change could be increased hospitality education or support for non-hospitality education. According to Joblist findings, more than 1/4 of former and current hospitality workers say they’re considering going back to school or enrolling in a training program to find a new occupation, and 11% are already doing that. Given this appeal, operators could benefit from educating prospective and current employees on the industry; alternatively, they could work on offering benefits and work opportunities that allow employees to successfully pursue their education at the same as their hospitality career – rather than having to choose one or the other. 

Although this is merely a snapshot of the issues plaguing the hospitality industry, these trends and driving forces are constantly changing on a month-to-month basis. 

Founded by attorneys Andreas Koutsoudakis and Michael Iakovou, KI Legal focuses on guiding companies and businesses throughout the entire legal spectrum as it relates to their business including day-to-day operations and compliance, litigation and transactional matters.

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