The hospitality industry in Florida is making a comeback after a year of being battered by COVID-19. However, even as the economy reopens, restaurants in Florida are now facing a staffing crisis. In fact, the acute shortage of staff is ripping through every sector of the restaurant industry, from high-end establishments to quick-service restaurants.
While the hospitality industry was experiencing a labor shortage pre-COVID, the pandemic seems to have aggravated the problem, which is perhaps surprising, considering how millions of workers across the country lost their jobs during the height of the pandemic.
Due to staff shortage, customers are waiting for longer to be served or even to get a table. Moreover, establishments are reducing their open hours, menus are shrinking, and some establishments are closing down for a few days every week.
What Has Led to the Current Staffing Crisis?
Theories and data that explain the situation are still emerging, but industry experts and restaurant owners believe that the current crisis has been caused by
- the currently available unemployment benefits
- former workers getting out of the restaurant industry
- fear of being exposed to COVID-19
With the available unemployment benefits, many people are getting as much or even more money by staying unemployed. According to Bill Dunkelberg, Chief Economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, the increased unemployment benefits are encouraging some workers to remain unemployed. Carol Dover, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association CEO asserts that restaurant businesses are now competing directly with the government. Dover also says that the staffing crisis has been worsened by the suspension of the condition that anyone receiving unemployment benefits must prove that there are either actively searching for a job or have been snubbed from one.
Migration of Workers
According to Darrin Rohr, the proprietor of HH Staffing, a Sarasota-based firm, many of the restaurant workers have shifted to permanent employers. When restaurants and other hospitality enterprises were closed down during the onset of COVID-19, some workers simply shifted to businesses that were hiring at that time. For instance, the grocery and retail giants Publix and Target have been on a hiring binge for months.
COVID-19 Fear Factor
Particularly at the start of the pandemic, some restaurant workers were uncomfortable going back to work because of the fear that they may contract the virus. According to Rohr, while the proportion of workers who’re still worried is shrinking, some aren’t willing to take the risk right now.
So What’s Next?
An associate Professor at the Gulf Coast University’s School of Resort & Hospitality Management, Michael Collins, believes that the current chatter about unemployment is simply a popular misconception. According to Michael, finding enough qualified employees has always been a problem in the restaurant business, and this is because many would-be workers view restaurant work as a job rather than a career.
Collins believes the staffing issues can be solved by restaurants equipping their employees with what they need to perform their duties, starting with the basics like uniforms and meals. The McKibbon Endowed Chair at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus, Cihan Cobanoglu, concurs with Michael.
As a restaurant owner, even as you battle with the current staffing crisis, you need an insurance policy that will protect your business from unforeseen losses. At Atlas Insurance, we will help you find a customized restaurant insurance policy that covers such unexpected perils. Contact us today to get started on your tailored policy crafted to suit your unique coverage needs.