How to Cope with a Restaurant Staffing Crisis 2024

On both sides of the Atlantic, US and British restaurants face a worrying situation. They currently share a serious problem: staff shortages. 

With many former employees leaving the industry for good, it’s time restaurants think more adventurously and seek other alternatives: to lessen the load on remaining team members with the helping hand of technology.

Restaurant software shouldn’t come at a heavy price.

Restaurant Staff Shortages — News

Currently restaurants across both the US and UK are suffering gravely from staff shortages.

Some commentators have labelled the current situation a crisis. Certainly, the figures call for concern. The Economic Policy Institute, for instance, recorded that over February 2020—2021, the hospitality sector received the hardest blow in job losses — nearly 3.5 million jobs. 

Due to poor staff numbers many restaurants are having to operate at reduced hours. In Ireland, for instance, a prominent restaurateur Mike Ryan reduced operating hours by 40 per cent. This came with a cost: less opening hours meant less customers, meaning less restaurant revenue.

As a result, the current wait staff shortage has forced remaining employees to stretch their work responsibilities. Longer hours are now common currency in the industry, as staff have to make their time go further, and the rapid change in professional circumstances is pushing both restaurant owners and employees to their limits.


Figure 1. Shadow Waiter by Alfred Payner via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

How are Restaurants Reacting to Hospitality Staffing Issues?

Naturally, the industry is reaching for a reversal in circumstances, but individual efforts seem to punch a weak blow against widespread patterns of dropping staff numbers. 

A waitstaff shortage has spawned a grand strategy in the industry that comes under one umbrella term: incentives. Restaurant operators are trying their best to reel back new employees with the invitation of new job benefits, to entice people back to the hospitality workforce with bonuses such as higher pay. 

Restaurateurs are now rethinking their attitude toward employees. “We have to recognise,” said one New York city restaurateur, “that we do have some of the hardest working people in the workforce, and they [deserve] to be treated [better].” 

The recognition is long overdue, especially when employees have consistently called for benefits over the past year. “Pay us our worth,” said Jennifer Estrada, a former restaurant waitress, who lost her job last year during the height of the pandemic. After testing positive for coronavirus, Jennifer’s words reflect one of the key reasons why restaurants are currently dealing with a waitstaff shortage: the extended impact of COVID-19.

Restaurant Staffing Crisis Explained 

So how did this all happen?

Some restaurateurs, placing their fingertips on the industry’s pulse, predicted that a staffing shortage was on its way before March 2020. Amanda Cohen, owner of a New York restaurant, said she felt the “rumblings” of a huge restaurant labour shortage before the pandemic began, owing itself to unstable wages. In 2015, she shredded tipping at her restaurant and swapped it for a 20 per cent surcharge on all bills for service. 

Nevertheless, the COVID-19 pandemic is mostly to blame. Many staff members from across the industry simply couldn’t cope with the high-stress indoor hospitality environments that the coronavirus introduced. The frontline employee experience became more difficult as staff now had to jog between work duties and personal safety worries. 

Plus, like Jennifer Estrada, many contracted the virus and had to leave work: during the second-wave in Wales (November—December 2020), for instance, hospitality became a “significant factor” in transmission of the virus.

A full explanation of the issue relies on physical location. In the UK, an extended furlough scheme offered restaurant staff 80 percent of their wages, which meant many were in no rush to return to work.

Then there’s Brexit. One journalist has argued that the “true reality” of the UK’s departure from the EU forced many EU nationals to re-evaluate their livelihoods in the UK hospitality sector. A “knock-on effect” of a pervasive nationalist discourse shunning migrants to the UK meant that many EU nationals left the country to seek positions elsewhere to the detriment of the overall UK restaurant sector. 

What is the Best Way to Handle Staff Shortages?

In the east of England a pizzeria is operating at 50 per cent of its usual staff. The assistant manager told The Independent, an online newspaper, that they have one waiter for every twenty tables. Hence, the more employees leave, the more pressure placed on those who remain.

Like many restaurant owners, experts recommend providing incentives to resuscitate low staff numbers. Undoubtedly the sector needs to make itself more attractive to bring back talent, but in the short term the labour shortage problem is going nowhere.

Restaurant teams are reaching crisis points and there is only so much that remaining staff are willing to put up with. Meantime, the industry needs to alleviate some of the present problems that now threaten to create further staff shortages — i.e. over-stretching work duties, staff going beyond the demands of their job titles, etc. . . . 

Thankfully restaurants can employ a better option: They can download Carbonara App, a restaurant app.


Figure 2. Waiter by Sarah Stierch via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

Restaurant App to Boost Staff Morale

Employing new staff will be a primary struggle in the months ahead. So, to support industry recovery, using our restaurant app will help facilitate matters.

One industry survey found that waiters spend around 35 per cent of their working hours sorting bills. If this is true, then how much time do teams spend on guest management? 

Problems arise when we use an obsolete system to handle guests, that takes up too much time. A pen-and-paper guest management system is a balancing act, that is, it requires a lot of work —  to avoid mismanagement. 

Carbonara App, intends to save staff time, whether that is seating guests using specialist time-saving techniques or sending members of the virtual queue SMS reminders on the progress of their wait

Skeleton staff can use Carbonara App to easily manage restaurant guest lists. It lessens the workload for remaining staff members, using multiple features such as wait timers to keep tables full. Staff can use their time attending to guests more efficiently; the overall effect is advantageous for the whole team, like releasing a steam gauge on a pressure cooker, helping staff members to complete their duties with ease.

Nowadays, this goes beyond mere guest management. Hospitality staffing issues demand that we significantly lessen the workload for our teams. With the Carbonara App, you can do just that. Our drinks pre-ordering feature simplifies drink orders for busy restaurants — in essence meaning you can sell more with less staff. Using clean mobile menus this process is super easy to integrate. 

Now, new staff can expect to walk into more inviting roles with little training needed to become an expert in using the app’s features. Learn efficient guest management in no time. 

Let’s counter waitstaff shortages together — contact us online and let’s help your restaurant establish an inexpensive solution, improving guestlist service.


Figure 3. Someone Ordered a Beer by Susanne Nilsson via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

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