The foodservice industry is opening nationwide with relaxed restrictions following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, worker shortages are a growing problem, as restaurants must compete with better-paying jobs and unemployment benefits. Operators are raising wages, offering first-day bonuses and some McDonald’s locations are even giving new employees iPhones. The foodservice sector provides significant demand for food and agriculture products, which shifted to home dining options or take out during the pandemic.
Now, pent-up consumers are looking to dining out, but the sector is behind demand. Federal data shows the foodservice industry added 186,000 jobs last month. Restaurant Business Online reports restaurants now employ 10.8 million workers, recovering 4.5 million workers from the depths of the pandemic. However, the sector remains 1.5 million workers short of pre-pandemic highs. The labor force participation rate was 61.6 percent in May, 1.7 percent lower than last February, suggesting several people have left the workforce and are not yet returning.