U.S. Consumers Are Not Enjoying Dining Out Right Now

12 February 2022

Pat Tully - Copywriter

How the labor shortage is negatively affecting the restaurant industry

Over the last two years, diners in restaurants have gotten used to a new normal. But with the current labor shortage pressing on into February, restaurants are experiencing serious ramifications in terms of customer service because of being short-staffed. 

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in December – a decline from the record 4.5 million who resigned from their jobs in November. Firings and layoffs actually dropped to record lows, yet the government found 330,000 more job openings in December than there were in November, with a total of 11 million job openings that exceeded the number of people available to fill them. 

It seems the term recently coined by media outlets, “The Great Resignation,” is becoming more and more fitting for this moment in time. We aimed to find out why.

Premise conducted a survey of nearly a thousand U.S.-based Contributors from January 27th to February 4th to learn about their restaurant experiences over the last two years in comparison to their pre-pandemic experiences. Given how the last two-year period has unfolded, there are certainly a good amount of changes to observe, especially with the unfortunate blow COVID dealt to the restaurant industry across the board.

After the survey concluded, it was revealed that 61% of U.S. consumers noted a general decline in service quality at restaurants, meaning more than half of people in the U.S. are seeing the effects of this trend in the workforce.

service quality

A third of respondents, 76%, cited reduced hours of operation at restaurants they frequent. With less business being conducted due to the ongoing labor shortage, the cost can often outweigh the ROI of keeping the store open for a few additional hours.

hours of operation change

60% pointed out fewer menu choices since the start of the pandemic in 2020. For most restaurants, smaller menus allow reduced staffs to more successfully manage incoming orders.

restaurant menu change

Nearly half of respondents said these changes have made them skeptical about dining out. These are by no means slight numbers – there is widespread dissatisfaction with the food service industry that is directly tied to this labor shortage.

eating out perception

Premise CEO Maury Blackman noted that the results of this survey act as a strong indication that “customers are becoming increasingly dissatisfied as a result” of stretched restaurant workforces. With many of us frequenting these various stores for coffee or lunch on a daily basis, it is a hard issue to ignore, even if you aren’t particularly concerned.

However, there have been some upsides to this visibility into the industry and how easily it can be affected by larger factors. 51% of consumers said these experiences have changed their opinions about the minimum wage of restaurant workers and 64% said restaurant workers are under-compensated.

minimum wage change
restaurant employee pay

Though people are most displeased with the service they are being provided upon dining at these restaurants, it seems, for the most part, they understand that a root cause of this shortage is how workers are compensated and incentivized to perform at their highest level. With the majority of consumers feeling unhappy with the status quo, and the massive discrepancy in sentiment towards minimum wage, it appears that the restaurant and food service industries might be forced into a position down the line where they have to make these roles more appealing for prospective employees by paying them more, as well as increasing the benefits offered to them.

This way, everybody wins – if workers are offered better compensation, they’ll be more inclined to keep and even excel at their job. And when employees are happy, while it’s not guaranteed, it’s far less likely that you’ll experience bad service when going out for a meal with friends or family. 

To learn more, visit www.premise.com

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