If one more person tells me, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” I will bite them. After over two years of Covid, followed by galloping inflation, ongoing recruiting nightmares, and finally, the threat of recession, we may not be dead but we are quite beat. The industry has suffered more than most, and recovery will take a while. And let’s face it, as we slog our way through this dark valley, it seems like things will never be the same. Here’s where we are, as of today:
1 — Recruiting
By all accounts, it seems to be one of the top issues plaguing restaurants. Staff has all the power: they can decide to show-up or not, and we will still keep them even when they flake, because our options are non-existent. Sixteenyear-olds are hired as waiters and are learning that they can make crazy demands. Restaurant owners and managers have to fill the holes and change opening hours to fit whatever help they can find. It’s bad, and there’s no way around it.
Now, will it get better? I always assumed that once Covid was behind us, the issue would resolve by itself. But those workers have found other better-paying jobs with a more suitable work-life balance, and they are not coming back. The situation will eventually correct itself, but there is no way to know how many months or years this will take. The only option is to offer more attractive pay and better work conditions, which is not an easy feat for restaurant owners.
2 — Inflation
The worldwide transportation of goods is off kilter. My friends working in the logistics industry are telling me that it is not really improving (for us – they, on the other hand, are quite happy). There is so much demand for goods transportation that they can’t fulfill all of it and can therefore charge high prices. Inflation is obviously more complicated than just this single factor, but, as this one example shows, the consequences in the aftermath of Covid are multifaceted and will stay with us for a while.
Prices will continue to rise, and we will all have to adapt to it. Restaurant owners will have to constantly re-evaluate their prices, which will undeniably impact customers and their willingness to eat out. Inflation is not our friend for many reasons. Consumers have a long memory, and while most will understand that prices have to rise to match the increased cost of goods, labor, and pretty much everything else, they also have psychological limits in terms of restaurant spending. To fight inflation, restaurant owners will have to closely analyze their operations to cut all unnecessary costs, work on offering an excellent experience to their guests to make eating out worth it for them, and figure out how to keep their staff happy in ways other than just increasing their paycheck.
3 — Recession
Are we there yet? The jury is still out, but it sure looks like we are heading this way. This looming recession, following right on the heels of Covid, represents the triple whammy for the industry. In 2021, we were still not back to the pre-Covid level in terms of restaurant sales. Some customers just learned to cook at home, or the pandemic simply killed the eating out habits for others.
Will it return to its previous level? It’s hard to tell, especially if we go into a global recession, which will cause consumers to become even more aware of their spending habits. Interestingly, a recession may help with the staffing issue, but it will also have impacts that annihilate those benefits. We can only prepare and hope to be ready. This is not the first recession; we can look into the past for examples of others. Consumers will still be eating out but might be more thrift-minded, looking for comfort food and experiences.
To conclude, the restaurant industry is under trial again. I admit that being a business owner in this sector is not for the faint hearted and requires both resolve and determination. With Hostme, you have an ally in the industry. Using our restaurant reservation system, you can quickly accelerate your table turn, keep your staff happy, and enhance your guests’ dining experiences – all while keeping a close handle on your costs. Contact us today for a free call with one of our product experts to see how we help address the above issues and make your business – and life – better!
by Marylise Fabro