Staffing shortages are continuing to cause headaches in the hospitality and retail industry.
Consumers have probably felt it to some degree while traveling, shopping or going out to eat over the busy summer season through longer wait times or certain products and menu items being taken off due to supply chain issues.
Some businesses are cutting hours and or even capacity limits – not so much because of COVID-19 this time, but simply because they just don't have enough people to get the job done.
The effects of the shortage are far-reaching. In California, a restaurant chain tried to host a job fair to find more workers but only received three applicants. In Alabama, multiple Chick-fil-A locations closed due to a lack of staff.
“I’m just curious to know what’s next around the corner because the last 18 months we’ve had something new every month or so,” said the president of Dallas-based and family-owned SSCP Management, Inc., Chris Dharod.
They run hundreds of restaurants, including Applebee's and Sonic franchises, and are also the franchisor of a few hundred Cici’s Pizza and Roy’s Hawaiian fusion brands.
“The really good thing is we have a lot of business. We have folks who want to eat with us and that’s really every year the biggest thing that we need,” he said.
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He said following the shutdowns and capacity limits in 2020, the staffing shortages really started to escalate in the first part of 2021.
“Until about earlier this year, we didn’t have enough business to where staffing was too much of an issue. And I’m speaking to the industry as a whole. But since about Q1 of this year, every restaurant owner I talk to can use more folks to help them and more team members at their restaurants,” Dharod said.
It's gotten even tougher since the summer as seasonal employees like students have gone back to school.
The delta variant is also adding to the situation as more people – and workers – test positive for the virus.
Many have simply left the industry for other careers or medical reasons.
“I think a majority has to do with there’s more money out there, folks have found ways to support themselves without a job or with different types of jobs,” Dharod said.
Rounding out the seemingly endless list of pressures this year are the supply chain problems pushing up the cost of products, food and ingredients – which is putting further strain on many industries outside of restaurants and retail.
“I’m hearing there’s not enough truck drivers out there for distribution so those truck drivers are the ones who bring restaurants and retailers product to sell. And when there’s not enough distribution out there, that can cause the supply chain issue,” Dharod said.
Like many industry experts are predicting, he believes the labor shortage could last for a while longer.
“I think we’ve got at least another six months of tough staffing ahead of us, unfortunately. And that could end up lasting us another 12 to 18 months,” he said.
There’s also real concern that the government's latest vaccine order – which includes requiring companies with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests – could push even more people to leave the workforce.
“I think it’s incredibly unfair that they are putting it on businesses to make sure that whatever they want is executed,” said Dharod. “But we’re still pretty new into this. This mandate just came out in the last week or so, we’re still exploring and still understanding more. It’s definitely another curveball."
Companies including McDonald’s, Target and Walmart are offering more pay or new perks to try to recruit and retain employees. But according to CNBC, more must be done to stay competitive in the labor market beyond just increasing pay.
Extended federal unemployment benefits ended last week so there's hope for relief if those folks enter the workforce soon.
Either way, Dharod said it's important for businesses to stay steadfast as the pandemic continues to deliver the unknown.
“Successful businesses are problem solvers. We have different problems every day, every week, and every month," he said. "It’s how we handle those problems that make business is successful. We’re ready for it and I’m sure there’s more change coming."