Labor, COVID Fears Hinder Foodservice Demand

Oct. 12, 2021
The restaurant industry is experiencing a slowdown of its summer surge.

The restaurant industry is experiencing a slowdown of its summer surge, due to fear of the COVID virus’s Delta variant as well as of the industry’s continuing labor struggles.

Technomic’s monthly report on growth in the foodservice industry shows a contraction for August of 1.9% compared with the same month in 2019, although 28% ahead of last August, when the pandemic was still in full swing. A spokesperson for Technomic told the Washington Post that last summer’s surge may have been an “artificial sugar rush.”

Employment in restaurants remains down almost a million jobs from pre-pandemic levels, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Observers blame a combination of lingering fear of infection and restaurants unable to find workers. The biggest problem cited in a poll of 4,000 restaurant owners by the National Restaurant Association was labor difficulties. In that poll, about half said that business conditions were worse than they were three months ago.

“Everyone assumes business is good, but we’re not there yet. We’re really struggling,” a restaurateur in Ann Arbor, Mich., told the Post.

The end of enhanced employment benefits did not motivate enough people to take restaurant jobs, as many speculated they would. There is a lot of competition, across numerous industries, for labor at the low end of the wage scale.

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