In In May, the leaving rate per share of employment in the housing and food services sector, which includes restaurants, was 5.7% as of seasonally adjusted. Data released this week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure held steady from the first month, and is higher than the dropout rate across all regions, falling from 2.8% in April to 2.5% in May.
Servers put themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 exclusively by interacting with customers. On top of that, they had to police customers who pushed back on mask or social distancing policies – without risking losing tips by humiliating or harassing them.
“People really had to work hard to pretend they were friendly and welcoming, despite the fact that their smile was covered with a mask,” said Alicia Ann Grande, a psychology professor at Penn State. Specializes in labor issues. “Trying to keep that friendly demeanor even in the face of work stress and hostile customers is linked to turnover,” he said.
With higher rates of employees leaving, more may follow to maintain higher rates, according to those who study labor relations. To keep them on board, restaurants may have to revamp their offering.
“When the dropout rate is high, there is a feedback loop,” said Rebecca Givhan, an associate professor of labor studies and employment relations at Rutgers School of Management and Labor Issues. “These jobs are very tough. And if restaurants are less staffed… the jobs are worse, and they are harder,” she said. “And so that high dropout rates can be sustained.”
Givhan said there are many reasons why restaurant workers are walking away from their jobs. For example, they are expected to work unpredictable hours at a moment’s notice. She said planning for childcare or another job can be challenging.
Restaurant “workers are realizing that there are high quality jobs available to them”, she said.
Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M’s business school, has a different name for that feedback loop. “We refer to this as the turnover contagion,” he said. He said that the transition of turnover leads not only to burnt employees. It also forces the frustrated workers to think more about their options.
“Whenever your coworker leaves, it makes you think… ‘What’s she going to do next? And am I missing out on that opportunity?’
Now that the pandemic has changed the traditional office model, “there’s this huge assortment of work arrangements that run the spectrum from completely personal to completely remote and everything in between,” he said. Restaurant workers, who can’t do their jobs from home, “might want to explore those other work arrangements and see how they fit into their lives.”
how to stop people from leaving
Employment opportunities in the housing and food services sector increased from 1.16 million in April to 1.25 million in May.
But high wages aren’t always enough to keep people alive, Givhan said. “if [you] You don’t have enough hours, even a better hourly wage doesn’t allow you to pay your rent or put food on the table,” she said.
To keep workers, restaurants “have to think carefully about how to create these good jobs and many matter, Givhan said.
Restaurants that offer the best pay and a better working environment may be able to take on some workers, said Nick Bunker, director of economic research for North America at Indeed Hiring Lab. He explained that running out of rates doesn’t end with workers. This means that people who quit their restaurant jobs may end up in restaurants they think will treat them better.
— CNN Business’s Matt Egan contributed to this report.