MUSKEGO — The
lobby of a McDonald’s on Racine Avenue closed early on Monday night
due to staffing shortages, a handwritten note read on the front door
of the business.
restaurants both in the state and across the nation struggle to find
enough staff to operate their businesses, which has led companies in
the industry to reduce hours of operation or utilize technology in
lieu of physical bodies, said Susan Qualm, Wisconsin Restaurant
Association executive vice president.
have contributed to the shortage of workers in Wisconsin. With the
economy on the upswing, more people are choosing to eat out or have
food delivered instead of having home-cooked meals, Qualm said.
dining out is steadily increasing,” Qualm said. “Today’s consuming
public eats out more than it ever has.”
demand, business owners feel more comfortable opening new
restaurants, which means there are more restaurants overall and an
even higher demand for workers, Qualm said. In fact, if this trend
continues, the number of workers needed to accommodate new
restaurants and the demand for dining out will increase by 10
percent over the course of a decade, she said.
shortages are also impacted by an overall decrease in the number of
people looking for entry-level jobs. Fewer teens are joining the
workforce, which Qualm thinks could be a product of extracurricular
and after-school activities. A decline in immigration has also led
to a shortage of workers to fill entry-level positions, Qualm said.
slowed dramatically in the United States in recent years so that has
also been a factor on some of those entry-level positions,” Qualm
industry is also troubled by widespread poaching, or restaurant
owners offering higher pay to skilled workers such as managers and
line cooks, Qualm added. In fact, skilled workers at a Madison
restaurant that closed due to the recent floods found a job within
24 hours, Qualm said.
“We’re seeing a
lot of poaching in between great workers within the industry,” Qualm
said. “And manager positions are the same way.”
unemployment at a record low, lack of workers in general is also a
factor in restaurant staffing shortages, Qualm said. In fact,
restaurant owners are offering much higher wages for bussers and
other entry-level positions to attract workers, a tactic that has
largely been unsuccessful.
owners are offering higher wages than they were five years ago,”
Qualm said. “I’m seeing quick service operations offering wages of
$13 to $14 where they’re hiring people who don’t have any experience
in the work force.”
the form of food ordering kiosks and cellphone applications has also
taken a toll on the restaurant industry workforce, but has also
provided some relief. In the case of a restaurant short on staff,
businesses are using tablets to give customers a chance to order
food and drink.
customers the opportunity to have a great dining experience that
doesn’t have a human being interacting with them at every single
step,” Qualm said. “Most in the industry would prefer to have that
human touch at all times, but in the cases where someone is just
asking for a refill, this way the customer can get it in a timely
By the numbers
Seventy-five percent of restaurant operators reported that they made
a capital expenditure (remodeling or purchasing equipment) over the
past three months.
Fifty-three percent expect to make a capital expenditure over the
next six months.
In June, the industry added 16,400 jobs.
Over the past year, the industry has added 221,000 jobs. On a net
basis, that is 600 jobs per day.
The restaurant industry employment growth rate at 1.9 percent is
above the overall national employment growth rate.
Commodity groups such as eggs, beef, citrus and potatoes have
increased in price while fresh veggies, poultry, pork and cheese
Menu prices increased in June by 2.6 percent while grocery store
prices increased by .05 percent. Overall inflation is up 2.5 percent
National Restaurant Association July Industry update