There are, however, some mitigating factors that will help restaurant operators facing this labor shortage:
- At some point, the world will come to the realization that COVID is not going away. Therapeutics will get better and more people will likely go about their lives irrespective of the risk, which includes working in a restaurant.
- The government assistance will come to an end in September thereby forcing the last holdouts into the labor market.
- Vaccine mandates (either by businesses or government) will become ubiquitous.
And there is one factor many have not yet considered: more migrants entering the labor force.
Data suggests an increasing number of undocumented people are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months. The Pew Research Center
noted that the U.S. Border Patrol had nearly 200,000 encounters with migrants in July 2021, a number not seen since March 2000.
Operating under the fair assumption that more undocumented migrants are entering the country, it also can be safely assumed that these people are going to need jobs. Since there is little reason to believe that the U.S. government will be enforcing I-9 requirements or encouraging the use of E-verify anytime soon, these migrants will probably be a significant portion of the industry's new labor force. (For the record, I am not encouraging illegal hiring practices.)
All of the efforts undertaken during the pandemic that reduce labor will continue, including:
- Smaller and more flexible electronic menus
- Buyout product
- Use of tablets in sit-down restaurants
- Ordering kiosks
The industry has always been both capital and labor intensive but the labor component cannot destroy profitability; the industry will find a way.