Stony consumers on restaurant labor challenges
As restaurants continue to grapple with labor issues, not all consumers are sensitive to the challenges they face — the majority aren’t even aware of it.
At this point, research of the May/June edition of PYMNTS’ Digital Divide series, “The Digital Divide: Technology, the Metaverse and the Future of Dining Out, created in collaboration with and Paytronix, revealed that only 36 % of consumers at least partially agree that the restaurants they visit are understaffed, and only 27% of consumers strongly agree.
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These results, which come from an April survey of nearly 2,500 American adults who regularly buy food from restaurants, showed that almost two-thirds (64%) of consumers are unaware of the problem or do not agree that this is a problem. In contrast, research from PYMNTS’ March study, “Main Street Economic Health Survey: Navigating Economic Uncertainty,” created in conjunction with Melio, found that 41% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), including restaurants , cited difficulty hiring employees as a relevant barrier to success in 2022, and 14% cited this concern as their biggest challenge.
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These challenges are hampering restaurants’ ability to meet consumer demand.
“[Restaurants are] still struggling,” Paytronix CEO Andrew Robbins told Karen Webster of PYMNTS in a March interview. “So incomes are going up, meals are going up, and it could really be a booming market for them if they could get the labor. There are still people closing, not doing all day they normally would and closing some nights. … It’s still a real problem.
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Lack of consumer awareness or concern about these challenges could present problems for restaurants when it comes to maintaining relationships with their customers. After all, there is a significant difference between how a diner who is sensitive to these issues would see slower-than-ideal service and how someone who isn’t would react.
Admittedly, the restaurant workforce is slowly recovering. Preliminary data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the food services and drinking places (i.e. restaurants and bars) subsector revealed that in May, employment in the industry had increased by around 46,100 jobs, although the total number remained lower by around 425,800 as of May 2019.
Not only do restaurants have fewer employees than before the pandemic, but they are being called upon to cater not only to their dining needs, but also to a greater share of their meals-on-wheels occasions. Results from the PYMNTS 2021 How We Eat Playbook, created in collaboration with Fiserv’s Carat, revealed that diners are now 31% more likely to purchase meals for delivery or takeout than they are to dine in.
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