It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has taken a beating in the past two years, with tens of thousands of restaurant closures and a flood of workers leaving the industry. And while diners seem excited to return to in-person dining, the industry still isn’t quite where it was before Covid-19 hit the United States.
While restaurant businesses added 41,000 jobs last month, employment is still down from February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest jobs report. Compared to February, the number of jobs in the hospitality and entertainment industry is down 7.8% this year, while overall unemployment stands at 3.6%, according to Nation Restaurant News.
Despite the slow recovery, the latest figures offer good news: since June 2020, the number of workers employed in the restaurant industry has increased by 27%, and from June 2021 to June 2022, the unemployment rate in the hospitality industry was cut in half, from 10.9% to 5.2%.
The industry as a whole has struggled to retain talent over the past two years, even as some restaurants offer higher wages and more flexible hours. “There is no silver bullet, one answer for everyone,” said Rona Lascano, director of training at A&W Restaurants. Nation Restaurant News earlier this year. “What we can influence is what the workforce is looking for today and how expectations have changed and are really moving towards a more team member-centric approach to recruitment and retention. .”
In fine dining, a number of New York establishments have raised prices in recent months, both directly and indirectly, to deal with employment issues. Earlier this year, Eleven Madison Park and Momofuku Ko eliminated their no-tipping policies, at least partially, in an effort to pay staff members more competitively and retain talent. And on Thursday, it was announced that Eleven Madison Park would also increase the prices of its menus, with the tasting menu increasing by $30 to $365, according to Eater NY.
Whether these changes will attract talent is open to question, but the latest numbers suggest the industry is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.