A combination of factors led to the shortage, said Steve Clark, vice president of government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. About 80 percent of industry respondents in a 2019 survey by payroll service provider Paychex said they felt burned out, even before the pandemic. The $ 300 unemployment benefit, slated to run through September, is encouraging some to persevere. Once the largest generation of the workforce, baby boomers are retiring, while some parents are reluctant to return to work until school is fully resumed. And the sheer pace of staffing – thousands of restaurants hiring 30 to 60 people at a time – is increasing competition, he said.
Paying bonuses on return can help in the short term, but could add to costs for customers in the long run, said Muzzo Uysal, professor and professor of hotel and tourism management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. A long-term solution is to retain employees through free meal cards or to adjust the minimum wage at state, federal and employer levels, he added.
Recruiting apps can assign roles to candidates through software and virtual training. Fliptable, which is based in Vermont and launched last month, uses artificial intelligence to connect managers with employees through a profile and a Tinder-like swipe interface.
Snapchef recently launched a training program with an online cooking school called Rouxbe aimed at workers entering the industry. The program includes food safety, knife skills, and basic ingredient identification to give new workers a head start in the job process. There are plans to add two additional training programs, said Scott Samuel, vice president of culinary arts at Rouxbe.
Gigpro, a personal app launched in South Carolina, currently works with approximately 6,000 people and 300 companies. It fills about 300 gigs a week and is free, though there is a charge after each gig, said CEO and founder Ben Ellsworth. He plans to expand north over the next year.
In the catering industry, it is not uncommon to leave a job for 25 cents more per hour or a shorter commute. To be successful, restaurateurs should meet their employees where they are looking for jobs, said Dylan Gully, a partner at Rethink Restaurants, a local consulting firm. That could mean populating personal apps or job boards like Indeed, Craigslist or Facebook, although NexDine’s Lanci said those platforms often leave managers with a stack of 60 resumes to search through.
Kickstarting using an app also has its difficulties.
“The app is only as good as the people who have it,” says Clark. “An operator can say, ‘Yeah, I love the platform, I love the user interface,’ but it didn’t really pull people through the door.”
No-shows for jobs are also part of the business, said Snapchef CEO Todd Snopkowski. He’s offering sign-up bonuses and incentives – like $ 100 for referral from friends and family – to help curb this on his platform.
At Gigpro, employees are rated after each appearance, which can help restaurants track their performance and reliability, Ellsworth said. The company is not a “magic pill”, but after a no-show, a worker is suspended for two weeks; a second offense and they are not on the app for a calendar year, he said.
Snapchef makes money by billing customers based on an employee’s time. For Lanci, the cost of finding workers is well worth it.
“The convenience of being able to call someone when needed is well worth the additional cost,” he said. “Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.”
Samantha Subin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.