As restaurants struggle to find workers, some are finding creative ways to fill openings

A waitress wearing a face mask and serving a customer some coffee at his table in a restaurant.
  • Leisure and hospitality is down 2.2 million jobs from February 2020 levels.
  • One restaurant owner said the people they typically get to fill positions are finding work elsewhere.
  • Signing bonuses and pay increases may not be enough of an incentive to attract workers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Just like many restaurants across the country, Sugapeach Chicken & Fish Fry in Iowa is having a hard time finding workers.

Chad Simmons, who owns the restaurant with his wife Carol Cater-Simmons, said the pandemic has been a difficult time for them. They did grow their business during the pandemic, but at the same time their expenses grew. The restaurant is looking to hire now that customers are coming back, but they’ve had few applicants.

“We still have not been able to be successful at attracting people. The primary people we would normally attract are finding opportunities in other areas,” Simmons said, noting that he and his wife typically look for more experienced workers. He said these workers are leaving the industry, finding jobs with higher pay, or aren’t looking for work right now because of unemployment benefits.

Restaurants like Simmons’ are struggling to find workers. According to one survey, 74% of independent restaurant owners said they’re having a harder time filling positions than before the pandemic. Teens on break from school are helping fill openings over the summer, but those workers are only temporary. Wages have increased in the industry as owners try to attract workers, but some restaurants have had to cut operating hours because of staffing issues. Even as the industry recovers from pandemic jobs losses, the leisure and hospitality industry still has a long way to go: employment is down by 2.2 million jobs from February 2020.

Restaurant owners are coming up with creative solutions to the staffing shortage

Angel Li knows how challenging it can be to find workers right now. Her sister owns a restaurant in Connecticut, which has three openings. Li, who’s a partner at accounting firm Fiondella, Milone & Lasaracina, has had to help out on a few holidays. Some of Li’s clients are restaurants, and she said that she has seen others like her sister struggle to hire and have had to find “creative solutions.”

“Currently, there is no backup plan for if someone misses a shift or needs to quarantine,” Li said in an email. “My sister is the only backup plan right now. Filling the open positions she has would often be the difference between her working until 2 am prepping for the next day, or going home at 9 pm.”

Simmons has hired high schoolers as part of a program called Scholars Making Dollars, which works with local Alpha Phi Alpha chapter in Iowa City. High schoolers get mentorship provided by the chapter and part-time work experience through the restaurant. Sugapeach also asked a a former employee who now works at Amazon to help clean for a few hours a week for pay and a meal.

“We’ve had to try to really get creative because customers don’t care about your problems,” Simmons said. “They want their food and they want it in a timely manner.”

For Li’s sister, that means hiring workers from out of state, usually New York. Her sister picks these workers up on Thursday and drives them back on Monday, providing them with a house while they’re in Connecticut.

“A lot more restaurants closed in New York than in Connecticut, so there actually are talented people in all types of positions looking for jobs there and some of them are happy to take a position in Connecticut that comes with a place to live,” Li told Insider in an email.

Workers aren’t going to come back just for bonuses and pay bumps

The quit rate in restaurants and hotels was 5.3% in May 2021, higher than the pre-pandemic rate. Some hospitality workers don’t plan on coming back to the industry, according to one survey by Joblist, even as some employers are offering bonuses. Bonuses may not be enough as an incentive, Saru Jayaraman, president of One Fair Wage, told NPR.

“It’s not enough to have a worker who’s decided, I’m going to walk away and change my life, to then flip back for a temporary boost,” Jayaraman told NPR.

Li said she knows one cafe she advises that has increased pay by about $3 per hour to retain employees.

“Even with the strong retention because of the higher wages, the owner is short-handed and hasn’t taken a day off since early 2020,” Li said.

Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider that signing bonuses and increased wages are helpful incentives, but “ultimately people evaluate job opportunities holistically.” He said workers think about things like pay, company culture, and benefits offered.

“For many of these employers, it’s going to be difficult to raise wages by a dollar or two an hour and expect that to beat out another job, which might have better working conditions and better long-term career opportunities. ” Zhao said.

Are you a restaurant or business owner having trouble hiring workers? Email mhoff@insider.com

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A 19-year-old fast food boss on $50,000 a year gives his 4 biggest takeaways from his first 7 months of management

Fast-food boss Jason Cabrera sits at a long wooden table wearing a black shirt and smiles.
Jason Cabrera, 19, told Insider his four biggest takeaways from his first seven months managing a restaurant.

  • Jason Cabrera, 19, is the general manager of a Layne’s Chicken Fingers in Texas, earning $50,000.
  • He started out buttering toast for $9.25 an hour three years ago and now manages 22 people.
  • Cabrera told Insider his four biggest takeaways from his first seven months in the job.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A 19-year-old manager of a chicken restaurant earning $50,000 a year told Insider what he’s learnt in his first seven months on the job.

Jason Cabrera, general manager of the Allen, Texas branch of Layne’s Chicken Fingers, started out buttering toast for $9.25-an-hour at the restaurant in late 2018, and now manages 22 people.

Garrett Reed, the CEO of Layne’s, told Insider in a separate interview that he would “usually have at least a handful of seasoned managers, people in their late 20s, early 30s.” However, he promoted three teenagers to general manager roles in recent months as the industry-wide labor shortage meant few experienced workers had applied.

Cabrera told Insider his four biggest takeaways from his first seven months:

He embraces his responsibility: “Anything that happens inside of that store is on me.”

When Cabrera accepted the job in January – one week after his 19th birthday – he said that he took on a raft of new responsibilities, including calculating labor costs, dealing with suppliers, and managing up to eight employees per shift.

“Just knowing that anything that happens inside of that store is on me. Anything that goes wrong, anything that goes right, it all comes back to me,” he said.

Cabrera said his role forced him to mature quickly.

“When I started working I was still a young kid that liked to have fun,” he said. “That was the problem. I had too much fun but I guess as I started getting into the role and whatnot, I matured so quickly without really noticing.”

Read more: The labor shortage has come for bank branches, forcing America’s banking giants to rethink how to stay competitive

Cabrera focuses on providing excellent customer service – and demands the same from his staff.

Cabrera said a big part of his job is devoted to keeping customers happy, and he looks forward to every Tuesday when Layne’s offers discounts, as he usually interacts with more guests.

“I really love seeing our parking lot filled with a bunch of cars,” he said.

And he demands the same attitude from his workers: “Every time I bring it up to someone I’m hiring, I let them know: ‘Hey, I care this much about guest service. You need to care this much as well if you’re coming into this job.'”

Two men stand behind the counter at a fast food restaurant smiling at the camera with their arms around each other.
Jason Cabrera, left, is general manager of Layne’s Chicken Fingers restaurant in Allen, Texas. Garrett Reed, right, is CEO of the chain.

He prefers to hire people into their first jobs

Cabrera said that he was “huge on recruitment” and prefers to hire people for whom it’s their first job. This is because it is easier to train them in Laynes’ way of doing things.

“I think it’s a really good thing to get those people in because it’s their first job and you can kind of build them up to be great,” he said.

Indeed, all of his team are aged between 16 and 21 but their relative youth has not led to a drop in Cabrera’s standards, which include providing top-tier service and working with a sense of urgency.

“I make sure when I do my interviews and whatnot, people know that I have high standards,” he said.

Cabrera’s biggest problem is finding enough workers

Cabrera said that, so far, he hasn’t dealt with any major problems in the job, except one – finding enough workers.

He told Insider he expects to lose half of his staff in the next few weeks as they go off to college, and checks hiring service Career Plug on a daily basis.

“I always refresh that page every day. I’m always looking for someone and there’s days I won’t get any. There’s days I’ll get five,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A hotel manager seeking 3 new hires said he was flooded with 115 applicants in 48 hours despite the labor shortage rocking the hospitality industry

A hotel worker is making a bed.
Businesses in the hospitality industry are scrambling to find workers as travel rebounds amid a huge labor shortage.

  • The owner of two hotels in Bellingham, Washington, said staffing hasn’t been a problem for him.
  • He credits this to the company culture, alongside its suite of perks like bar credits for staff.
  • People are traveling again and hotels, bars, and restaurants are feeling the strain.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A hotel manager in Bellingham, Washington, was only looking for three new hires when he placed a job ad in the spring.

Instead, Jamie Verkist, who manages Hotel Leo and Heliotrope Hotel, was flooded with 115 applicants in 48 hours, he told Insider.

Businesses in the hospitality industry are scrambling to find workers as travel rebounds amid a huge labor shortage.

Verkist said that his hotels are now at between 80% and 100% capacity – and people are starting to book much further in advance, too.

“We were really scared when travel picked up so quickly,” Verkist said. But his hotels were barely affected by the labor shortage, he added.

Read more: California Pizza Kitchen is quietly testing a dining room robot

He credits the hotels’ strong staffing to its culture, which he said has worked on for nearly four years. “We believe a happy team equals happy guests,” Verkist said. “You cannot have one without the other.”

“There is no ‘fear-driven’ leadership in our organization,” he added. “We strive to create a workplace that our team enjoys coming to each day and feels supported.”

Verkist let some staff go early on in the pandemic but stayed in contact with them. Some college students quit their jobs because they no longer needed to stay in Bellingham after their classes went online, but he said the vacancies got filled quickly.

He now hires around 35 workers across both hotels, and doesn’t contract staff from outside the company.

Verkist prides himself on the perks he offers to his staff, too. He said that he raised starting wages to $15 an hour last May, and offers bonuses of between $250 and $500 to up to four staff members a month.

He also gives staff $15 in bar credits for each shift they work to get a free meal at the hotel’s restaurant either during or after their shift. Outside of working hours, staff get a discount at the restaurant, too.

Verkist added that he focuses on promoting from within, and has never hired a manager from outside.

The labor shortage stems from issues ‘that have been laying low for years’

A third of former hospitality workers said in a Joblist poll that they wouldn’t return to the industry.

“This is a mass exodus like I’ve never seen before in my lifetime,” Peter Ricci, head of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program, told Insider.

This comes as travel is rebounding massively amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “People are traveling like crazy again,” Ricci said.

Ricci said that some business owners had a short-term view and blamed the tight labor market on supplemental unemployment benefits, but that it really stemmed from issues “that have been laying low for years,” like low pay, few healthcare benefits, and a lack of flexible hours.

“If we get closer to starting wages in other industries, we’ll level the playing field,” he said. In the meantime, hotels and restaurants may have to raise their rates and menu prices or reduce their operating hours, he said.

Hotels have been rolling out perks like $1,300 fitness machines, free rooms, and even knife sets to both retain and recruit staff.

“Eventually incentives and benefits will draw workers back,” Joblist CEO Kevin Harrington said – and the “silver lining” is that the labor shortage could create a better environment for workers, he added.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 19-year-old fast food boss earning $50,000 a year breaks down what he does with his money, from paying off a 2020 Dodge Charger to saving for his parents to get a new house

Jason Cabrera smiles while wearing a baseball cap and a black t-shirt while working at his restaurant.
Jason Cabrera, 19, is the general manager for a Layne’s Chicken Fingers restaurant in Allen, Texas.

  • Jason Cabrera, 19, is the new general manager of a Layne’s Chicken Fingers in Texas, earning $50,000.
  • Cabrera has bought a new Dodge Charger Scat Pack and is saving up to buy his parents a house.
  • He can now eat at nice restaurants and regularly attend Texas Rangers baseball games, he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jason Cabrera started out buttering toast and washing dishes for $9.25-an-hour at a Texas fast food chain in 2018 – and now earns $50,000 as a general manager, after being promoted just one week after his 19th birthday.

Garrett Reed, the CEO of Layne’s Chicken Fingers, told Insider in a separate interview that the industry-wide labor shortage had pushed him to promote three workers aged 18 or 19 to manager positions earlier this year, including Cabrera.

Cabrera’s annual salary far exceeds the $28,860 that the average 16 to 19-year-old can expect to make, per US Labor Department data – and it also doesn’t include any performance-linked bonuses he might receive throughout the year.

Cabrera told Insider that his biggest expense since starting his new job was a Dodge Charger Scat Pack 2020, which he has been paying off in $1,360 monthly instalments.

“I plan on paying it off by next year. All my money I get, I really just throw it at my car. Not upgrading or whatnot, just paying it off,” he said.

Read more: Capitol Hill staff take second jobs with Postmates, Starbucks, and J. Crew to make up for their low salaries

Cabrera said that his new salary has also allowed him to eat out at nice restaurants, and attend concerts.

“I really didn’t have the option of going out as much as I do now,” he said.

In particular, Cabrera enjoys attending baseball games after work to see his favorite team, the Texas Rangers, in action. His new paycheck means he can do this far more regularly.

“I would only go to one game a season but now I go to like 12 games a season,” he said.

Cabrera said that he is also saving up money to fulfil two long-term financial goals: buying his parents a new house, and owning his own Layne’s franchise restaurant.

He said that he still lives with his parents rent-free, five minutes away from the restaurant, and they often stop by to check on him when he works double shifts.

“My goal is to eventually hopefully buy them a house,” he said. “I’d love to do that for them.”

When he told his parents last year that he did not plan on going to college, they were initially upset, Cabrera said. But this decision has “paid off a year later,” he said, referring to his new manager role.

“They’re proud, you know, they’re not going too crazy over it, but they’re pretty happy about it,” he said.

Cabrera also estimates that it could take five years to save up enough money to open a franchise.

“If I’m smart with my money, which I have been, I’ll probably get there real quick,” he said.

Cabrera’s new role involves managing 22 people, checking their payroll, calculating inventory, and dealing with suppliers, among other tasks.

He embraces this responsibility: “Just knowing that anything that happens inside of that store is on me. Anything that goes wrong, anything that goes right, it all comes back to me,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

America is facing a teacher shortage, and some school districts are giving out signing bonuses to attract staff

Teacher and students sitting together in a circle on the floor and wearing masks
  • As kids enjoy the last few weeks of summer, school districts are figuring out how to fill positions.
  • Some schools are offering signing or retention bonuses.
  • The US is down nearly 582,000 jobs in local and state government education from February 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

With the school year just two months away for most of the US, some students may be eager to return to the classroom after a year of learning online and over Zoom. But some districts facing a teacher shortage are struggling to fill open positions.

That shortage isn’t a new issue, but the pandemic has led some educators to rethink their work.

According to a survey of 2,690 members of the National Education Association in May, 32% said the “pandemic has led them to plan to leave the profession earlier than they anticipated,” NEA Today’s Tim Walker wrote.

Additionally, in a report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, as reported by CNBC, 38% of 484 K-12 employees surveyed said working during the pandemic has made them think about changing jobs. And 55% of these employees surveyed said “the risks I’m taking working during the COVID-19 pandemic are not on par with my compensation.”

In another survey by Frontline Education, two-thirds of about 1,200 school and district leaders reported a teacher shortage, which the school administration software company notes is a new high after first conducting the survey in 2015. The survey results also show a high share reporting special education teacher shortages and substitute teacher shortages.

Waco Independent School District in Texas is one district looking to hire more teachers. “My staff was on a job fair this week and there were over a 100 districts on that job fair because they have a great need for teachers; it’s not just Waco ISD, absolutely not,” Josie Gutierrez, Waco Independent School District’s assistant superintendent for human resources, told local Central Texas news station KCEN-TV earlier this month.

As seen in the chart below, employment in state and local government education plummeted last spring and is still down from pre-pandemic levels. There were 10.0 million workers employed in state or local government education jobs in June 2021, down from 10.6 million in February 2020, or short by around 582,000 jobs.

As some districts struggle to keep and retain staff, they have turned to signing and retention bonuses to fill positions and keep current talent.

San Juan Unified School District in California is offering $2,000 in signing bonuses, and Marlboro County School District in South Carolina is giving out $2,500 in retention bonuses for teachers who return and teach in the upcoming school year. One school district in North Carolina will also offer signing bonuses of $2,000 to bus drivers as it looks to fill multiple positions.

As Insider’s Anna Cooban reported, a few different states are using federal stimulus funds to give bonuses as a “thank you” for their work amid the pandemic and to retain current staff.

One school is even looking outside the US to fill open positions. Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Khera of Peoria Public School District in Illinois told CNN that the district is hiring 27 people from the Philippines. This is part of the state’s visiting international teaching program.

Similar to restaurants owners having a hard time finding new workers, some school districts are finding it hard to fill open spots amid the pandemic and with the school year quickly approaching.

“We face a looming crisis in losing educators at a time when our students need them most,” Becky Pringle, NEA president, told NEA Today’s Tim Walker. “This is a serious problem with potential effects for generations.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A server says she’s getting lousy tips because she keeps having to do other people’s jobs in the labor shortage

server at a restaurant in California
A server clears a table as patrons dine outdoors at Gloria’s Cocina Mexicana restaurant in California on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.

  • One restaurant worker says the labor crunch is killing her tips.
  • The lack of staff means she’s unable to give good service to customers, she said.
  • “Servers have been called to work on the food line, to prep salads, to wash dishes,” she said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

One restaurant worker says the labor crunch is killing tips for servers.

In an interview with CNN, 58-year-old server Karen McLaughlin, who works at Provino’s Italian restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said that the lack of staff meant servers were stretched, which means customers get worse service and therefore pay lower tips.

On some days “we have to take the orders, run our own food [and] bus all of our tables … Servers have been called to work on the food line, to prep salads, to wash dishes,” she told CNN.

“We come in and just have to fill the holes. If you’re having to do other things … then you make less,” she said.

Retail and restaurant businesses across the US are scrambling to find workers in a tight labor market as workers quit to look for higher-paying jobs with better working conditions.

Job openings across the US have reached record highs, and some businesses are having to temporarily close because they can’t find enough staff.

Those who don’t quit have to pick up the slack.

Another restaurant server told CNN that some of his coworkers have walked out in the middle of their shifts.

“[Hostesses who] seat the tables, the dishwashers, the bussers … they’ll walk out,” 36-year-old Joshuah Morton, who works at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, told CNN. This made him consider quitting himself, he said.

“I don’t think there’s any server who hasn’t been tempted to quit … especially right now,” he told CNN.

According to a recent survey from non-profit One Fair Wage, which advocates for higher wages for restaurant workers in the US, the majority of restaurant workers who have recently quit cited low wages and low tips.

If you are a retail worker or business with a story to share please contact this reporter at mhanbury@insider.com.

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That online menu you read by scanning a QR code might still be tracking you, and privacy experts are worried

Menu QR Codes
Women use a QR code to order lunch with their smart phone while outdoor dining.

  • Some digital menus are tracking your purchase history and personal data, NYT reported on Monday.
  • Offline behavior such as eating out with friends can be tracked online, worrying privacy experts.
  • QR codes can help small businesses better understand customer behavior and cut labor costs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

At many restaurants, a physical menu might be considered a bit of a vintage find.

Half of full-service restaurants in the US now use scannable QR codes, according to the National Restaurant Association. The contactless technology popularized during the pandemic allows customers to pull up digital menus on their phones and order without a server – a convenience that privacy experts say comes with a potential downside.

The New York Times reported on Monday that QR codes have increased businesses’ ability to track and analyze customer behavior, with some apps collecting personal data such as order history, emails, and phone numbers.

Databases created from the data can then be used for marketing promos such as personalized discounts or recommendations, according to the Times.

Activities valued for their intrinsically offline nature – such as eating out or grabbing drinks with friends – are now becoming “part of the online advertising empire,” Jay Stanely, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU told the Times.

Jason Buffer, a marketing manager at 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar in New York City, told Insider that QR codes have helped the bar stay open with less waitstaff as it struggles to find new hires during the labor shortage.

“I think it’s just going to get more and more towards the digital side,” Buffer said. “I think we’re going to have less and less sort of human interaction.”

Technology has helped minimize COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the pandemic. However, experts are concerned that some developments, such as the rapid adoption of QR codes, could compromise privacy rights.

“There have been disease outbreaks throughout human history, but never one that has taken place in the era of high-tech tracking tools and ‘big data,'” Stanley wrote on the ACLU website last May.

Perhaps of utmost importance to restaurant owners is the money QR codes can save businesses hit hard during the pandemic. According to Cheqout, a QR ordering and payment system, the digital menus can help save up to 50% on labor costs, the Times reported.

While convenient and low cost, some service workers are beginning to fear that the black-and-white squares could eventually replace their jobs.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 19-year-old restaurant boss started out buttering toast for $9.25 an hour – now, he earns $50,000 and manages 22 people. Here’s what his workday looks like.

Jason Cabrera smiles while wearing a baseball cap and a black t-shirt while working at his restaurant.
Jason Cabrera, 19, is the general manager for a Layne’s Chicken Fingers restaurant in Allen, Texas.

  • Jason Cabrera, 19, earns $50,000 a year and manages 22 people at Layne’s Chicken Fingers in Texas.
  • Laynes’ CEO said he has made three teenagers managers this year amid the labor shortage.
  • Cabrera said some customers are “shocked” at his young age. Here’s what his day looks like.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jason Cabrera became a manager of a Texas fast-food restaurant just one week after his 19th birthday. He started out buttering toast and washing dishes for $9.25 per hour, and now earns $50,000 a year in his senior role.

Cabrera, who joined the Allen branch of Layne’s Chicken Fingers in late 2018, took the job in January, as a severe labor shortage pushed the restaurant’s CEO to promote three of its teenage employees to managers.

The young manager took Insider through his average workday, from making a lemonade batch at 8 a.m. to checking in with some of the 22 employees he manages.

At 8 a.m., Cabrera gets into the restaurant before his team arrives and makes a big batch of lemonade for customers.

A parking lot outside a fast food restaurant with a white and red facade on a sunny day.
Layne’s Chicken Fingers restaurant in Allen, Texas.

By 10.30 a.m., all team members have arrived – Cabrera usually manages about eight per shift – and the restaurant is open for its first customers.

Cabrera said that managing 22 people, all aged between 16 and 21 years, forced him to mature quickly.

A restaurant worker wears a black and white baseball cap while working
Cabrera’s staff are all aged between 16 and 21 years.

“When I started working I was still a young kid that liked to have fun,” he said. “That was the problem. I had too much fun but I guess as I started getting into the role and whatnot, I matured so quickly without really noticing.”

Two men work in a restaurant kitchen deep frying food.
Cabrera said that he is on his feet from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day.

From 10.30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cabrera is constantly moving, checking in with his team, and dealing with guests.

Asked whether he finds being on his feet all day tiring, Cabrera said that he doesn’t “feel anything” because he’s “really young.”

“Probably once I, you know, start getting older then I’ll start having back problems,” he said.

Two customers in a fast food restaurant with red brick walls are served their food.
Cabrera said that Tuesdays are often very busy with customers when Layne’s offers promotional deals.

On Tuesdays, when Layne’s offers a range of meal deals, including discounts of up to 20%, the restaurant is usually busier.

Cabrera said he particularly enjoys these days because he gets to interact with more guests.

“It’s something I get to look forward to every week,” he said. “I really love seeing our parking lot filled with a bunch of cars.”

A fast food worker wears a grey top and black and white baseball cap while dispensing a soft drink.
Cabrera manages up to eight workers in any given shift.

Cabrera said he enjoys dealing with “shocked” customers who asked to see the manager and don’t expect to see “a 19-year-old kid running a whole store.” Several customers have asked him for his age.

“I love seeing the reaction. It’s really funny,” he said. “They start complimenting me and just letting me know, hey man, when I was your age I wasn’t doing any of that stuff.”

A fast-food worker prepares fries for the deep-fat fryer in a restaurant kitchen.
Cabrera helps out in the kitchen and usually prepares a big batch of lemonade for customers when he arrives at 8 a.m.

At 3 p.m., Cabrera retires to the restaurant’s office to do paperwork, which includes calculating labor costs, ordering inventory, and tallying up sales and drive-through times.

“I crunch those numbers down every week. So the next week we have our corporate meetings here at the office and we go over those numbers,” he said.

A fast food restaurant interior with light wood panels and red walls.
The Allen branch of Layne’s Chicken Fingers is one of eight across Texas.

Cabrera said he has spent much of his time recently trying to recruit workers. Garrett Reed, Layne’s CEO, previously told Insider that he hiked wages for shift managers by 17% to $14-per-hour to entice applicants amid an industry-wide labor shortage.

A fast food worker wears a grey t-shirt and red baseball cap while in the restaurant kitchen.
Cabrera said that much of his time recently has been spent trying to find workers.

At 4 p.m., Cabrera hands over to a shift manager and often goes to watch a baseball game.

After work, Cabrera watches the Texas Rangers in action. His new paycheck means he can do this far more regularly.

“I would only to go to one game a season but now I go to like 12 games a season,” he said.

Read more: I’m a millionaire businessman who was arrested for protesting with restaurant workers. We demand better wages for the employees running our economy.

A fast food restaurant manager wears a black t-shirt and baseball cap while sitting at a high table.
Cabrera said that he has matured quickly since taking on the general manager role.

Cabrera said he is saving part of his $50,000 annual salary to buy his parents a house and eventually open his own Layne’s franchise.

“If I’m smart with my money, which I have been,” he said. “I’ll probably get there real quick.”

A customer wearing a white shirt sits on a bench in a fast food restaurant against a white wall.
Layne’s Chicken Fingers has promoted three workers between 18 and 19-years-old to general manager positions in 2021 amid a labor shortage.

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Videos of bar lines wrapping around the block are going viral. We asked 5 NYC bar workers how they’re surviving the labor shortage.

People attend the "Ricky Powell: The Individualist" after party at Le Bain At The Standard on June 14, 2021 in New York City.
People attend the “Ricky Powell: The Individualist” after party at Le Bain At The Standard on June 14, 2021 in New York City.

  • As NYC bars reopened this summer, owners couldn’t hire enough workers to handle the crowds.
  • Insider interviewed five NYC bar owners, managers, and bartenders about the labor shortage.
  • Some employees are optimistic about the future of the city’s hospitality industry – others are not.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

During a night out in downtown New York City, bar lines have gotten so long that one will end where another begins, forming chaotic and impatient crowds.

On the corner of Washington St. and Little West 12th, partygoers outside of Le Bain and The Brass Monkey cross paths, with some groups waiting up to three hours.

“When things really started to pick up I found myself having to get behind the bar, and I should not be bartending,” Marisol Delarosa, a managing partner at The Brass Monkey said, laughing. “It took me a little while to get back into the swing of it.”

As New York City bars reopened to full capacity in late May, bar managers like Delarosa couldn’t find enough workers to handle the crowds suddenly pouring in. With the entire city hiring at once, demand for service workers quickly outpaced supply.

The Brass Monkey has about 60% of the staff it normally employs during the summer, while business is back to pre-pandemic levels. This forces some staff to volunteer for long shifts lasting through the night.

“People want the old New York back,” Chaim Dauermann, a manager at The Up & Up, a cocktail bar in Greenwich Village, told Insider. “The challenge for us has been being able to offer that to them while still being until recently very understaffed.”

The cause and effect of a dwindling applicant pool

When Delarosa first put out summer job postings in April, she got seven applicants with no real bartending experience. Usually, the popular bar would receive hundreds of applications in just a few days.

“If I were looking for a bartender two years ago, I’d probably wake up the next day to check and I’d have 50 to 100 emails,” said Jason Buffer, who hires staff for 230 Fifth, a rooftop bar by Madison Square Park. “This time around, I maybe get three or four, and maybe one of them has New York City experience that we’re looking for.”

Delarosa said that she doesn’t believe unemployment benefits are the sole reason fueling the shortage, and it’s not because of low wages – on busy nights, her staff can make hundreds of dollars an hour.

“I think there was also a real existential shift that people had during this time,” she said. “They wanted to do something different, or they wanted a different life.”

The dwindling applicant pool has caused some bars to hire staff with less experience, or even offer signing bonuses, according to Buffer.

Ali Martin, the head bartender at The Up & Up, said every employee has to be trained to do every job now – from hostessing or serving to bartending – in order to keep up.

A cautious optimism for the future

The Brass Monkey in the Meat Market district is closed on December 26, 2020 in New York City.
The Brass Monkey in the Meatpacking district is closed on December 26, 2020 in New York City.

“I’m optimistic because I have to be,” Delarosa said. “It’s going to be a long haul to get things back to where they were.”

All five workers expressed some form of cautionary optimism, ultimately agreeing that the city’s hospitality industry may never be the same.

Brian Grummert, the owner of Subject on the Lower East Side, told Insider that employees have realized they want a better quality of life than many bars allow. He hopes that this will reinvigorate the industry and create a “new wave” of bartenders.

“They don’t want instability, they don’t want to work crazy hours anymore. They want their personal life back,” he said.

Buffer said 230 Fifth has replaced the need for more waitstaff with a self-serve system and scannable QR codes. “I think it’s just going to get more and more towards the digital side,” he said. “I think we’re going to have less and less sort of human interaction.”

Delarosa and Dauermann are both concerned that New York City is no longer accessible for new businesses or workers like it was when they moved to the city over fifteen years ago.

“I think it’s changed forever in a lot of ways and I worry,” Dauermann said. “I want New York to still be a city that people go to to be the best at what they do.”

“It might end up just being lots of chain restaurants and very few mom and pop shops and small businesses,” Delarosa told Insider. “Which is sad because that’s what makes New York City great. You don’t come here to go to Chick-fil-A.”

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3 signs the labor shortage could end soon – and one major sign that it won’t, according to UBS

Popeyes sign now hiring
The labor shortage is hitting fast food restaurants.

  • UBS Evidence Lab economists said job openings and retirement peaks may signify an end to the labor shortage.
  • Job gains in leisure and hospitality are also promising signs that people are getting back to work.
  • But bottlenecks, which slow economic growth, could prolong the labor shortage, they said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The labor shortage is tough on the economic recovery. Consumers are spending and employers want to hire, but jobs can’t get filled fast enough right now.

There’s several signs that suggest the labor shortage will end soon, according to a Thursday note by the UBS Evidence Lab. But there’s one big reason it might not.

UBS’s Andrew Dubinsky, Pablo Villanueva, and Samuel Coffin wrote in a Thursday note that the labor shortage might be ending soon, given the increase in job openings and decline in retirement rates, among other things.

According to UBS, here are the three signs that the labor shortage could be ending:

Job openings keep rising

The indicator that makes “the best case for continued strong job gains is job openings which have continued to increase through the end of May,” the economists wrote.

They also note a drop in quit rates, which could suggest stable hiring rates accompanied by the job gains in May and June. The latter month added 850,000 payrolls, in the clearest sign that the shortage may be easing.

Opening rates continued to climb while hiring was stable
UBS: Opening rates continued to climb while hiring was stable.

Insider previously reported that a factor behind the job openings could be workers holding out for higher wages, and given that a number of companies are beginning to increase wages to get people back to work, more jobs will likely be filled as a result.

Retirements may have peaked

UBS found that retirements may have peaked for those aged 70 and older, which could help explain why participation rates are low.

Labor force participation rates compared with retirement
UBS: Labor force participation rates compared with retirement.

Other factors, like fear of contracting the virus and disruptions to childcare, are temporarily limiting the return to the workforce, the economists wrote, but they are expected to improve in the coming months.

Service jobs added to the high level of job openings

The leisure and hospitality sector made up 40% of the total job gains in June, adding 343,000 payrolls, showing a promising sign for job growth in the service industry.

Depressed services contributed to job gain in May
UBS: Depressed services contributed to job gains in May.

Pay in the sector also jumped 3.6% over the past three months, and the correlation between increased jobs and increased wages is suggesting that higher wages work. For the month of June, wages shot up 7.1% from a year ago, the biggest gain for any sector.

But these promising signs for the end to the labor shortage could be jeopardized by one thing: bottlenecks.

Bottlenecks occur when an industry has to slow its growth because it cannot keep up with demand, and the economists wrote that if bottlenecks don’t fade, the labor shortage will likely persist. Job fillings remain slow from the bottleneck caused by the pandemic recession, but the drop in quit rates, along with wage gains, suggest bottlenecks might be fading, UBS said.

“If bottlenecks fade, openings and listings gains imply job growth trends should remain strong,” it said.

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