As the capacities of restaurants across the country increase, so does their need for staff. But what many restaurant employers have called a restaurant workforce shortage is ongoing. The root of the problem is twofold: there are now many, many jobs to be filled and, more impactfully, many restaurant workers decide a return to work in the restaurant business is just not worth it.
Advocates for restaurant workers like Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, an organization that fights to abolish the minimum wage tip, hope the hardships of the past year will encourage restaurants to make long-term changes to their fashion. Operating. On the Eater’s Digest podcast, Jayaraman noted that she had seen restaurants before. increase wages both in response to either the murder of George Floyd (“they did not want to perpetuate the low minimum wage as a legacy of slavery and a source of racial inequity”) or the increased harassment of many servers during the pandemic. But such recognition of the sustainability of restaurant work is far from widespread. And in recent weeks, it appears that many restaurants have turned to short-term solutions to the staffing problem, attempting to lure workers in with one-off incentives, including signing or retention bonuses and, in the most short term, free food. .
Applebee declared May 17 National Hiring Day with the aim of filling more than 10,000 positions across the country, in response to a recent record demand: the channel “had two of its largest months on record. in March and April, ”according to FSR, which must have been a particularly remarkable feat for understaffed restaurant workers. To do this, he launched a program called “Apps for Apps”, in which any candidate who was offered an interview received a voucher for a free aperitif at Applebee.
Signing and retention bonuses are more common. According to CT post, cooks at select Applebee establishments in Connecticut were also offered a bonus of $ 50 after the first week and $ 150 after 90 days. the New York Post reported who choose, although not named, Stephen Starr restaurants are handing out $ 300 signing bonuses in what Starr described as a “smart [way] to attract people. In New York, the Mermaid Inn offer Bonuses of $ 500 to servers hired at its four sites, paid after three months of “satisfactory employment”. In Portland, Oregon chain McMenamin, who hires for a variety of positions including waiters and bartenders, only newly hired cooks and chefs are eligible for a $ 1,000 bonus after 90 days of employment.
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar is hoping that a host of incentives will encourage people to apply for the more than 60 restaurant and nightlife positions available every hour. Money is one of those incentives, including a welcome bonus of $ 250 and referral bonuses of $ 600, which, according to a press release, new employees can receive in the form of cryptocurrency. But Cuba Libre also announces that its employees will have access to a tuition reimbursement program, in particular for a finance course at UDC Community College, and to free Spanish or English courses in order, such as the Says Cuba Libre co-founder Barry Gutin, “Improve communication between staff and guests, encourage applicants of all ethnicities to apply, and unlock advancement opportunities for recent immigrants.”
Tuition reimbursement and even health care are perks offered at other restaurant groups, including McMenamin’s and Applebee, but it’s the promise of a quick payoff that restaurants seemingly hope to obscure the realities of work during a pandemic that’s indeed underway. Unfortunately, as the New York Post find in April, it doesn’t seem to be working. After a month, an advertisement by a group of restaurants in St. Petersberg, Fla. For signing bonuses of $ 200 and potential increases after 90 days failed to attract applicants; and a McDonald’s manager in Tampa, Florida lamented that his offer to pay people $ 50 for an interview went unanswered, not even from “anyone trying to rip us off.”
Even before COVID-19 made restaurant work inherently dangerous, abuse was rampant in the restaurant industry: As the pandemic was laid bare, restaurant workers faced constant harassment and abuse. unsustainable hours for low wages, all without a safety net in the form of benefits or career advancement. Maybe job seekers still don’t line up because a $ 50 interview bonus won’t protect against harassment from clients; $ 1,000 after three months will not pay for child care; and free mozzarella sticks don’t equate to affordable health insurance at all. As a restaurant worker told Eater in March, the real push will be to make sure restaurant workers, after the pandemic, feel safe: “What can we do to make sure that the people who provide of food not constantly, no matter how hard they work, on the world’s finest ice?