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Workforce

Why job hunters aren't even considering restaurant offers

A new study shows that higher pay can only take the industry so far. The data indicate that employers might want to think about their working conditions instead.
Photograph: Shutterstock

In a grim measure of how job seekers view restaurant and hotel work, 60% told researchers they would not consider taking a position in the hospitality business right now. And that’s not even the worst finding from the industry’s perspective.

Among those who have no interest in a hospitality job, 69% said there’s not a compensation package or workplace situation that would change their mind.

The study by the employment website JobList found less resistance among job seekers who’ve previously held hospitality positions. Still, 38% of those veterans said they’re not considering a return to the field in their hunt for work.

“This represents a major shift, with a large percentage of the old hospitality labor force looking to transition out of the industry,” the study notes.

The findings weigh against the assertion by many in the restaurant industry that the issue is pay. According to that theory, restaurants can’t hire because far higher compensation levels are offered by a host of employers outside of the industry, especially tech-enabled businesses such as Amazon or Uber.

But the 300,000 respondents in JobList’s survey indicated that pay isn’t the fundamental reason they’re avoiding restaurants.  Asked to explain their aversion, 58% indicated that they’d prefer to work in a different sort of setting, such as an office. Low pay was cited by 37%. Limited flexibility and the inability to work from home were mentioned by 16% and 14%, respectively.

The industry’s pay scale was more of an issue to industry veterans. About 45% said they were leaving the hospitality business because of the higher compensation offered elsewhere. But the more powerful driver, according to the survey, were the more enticing job conditions they found elsewhere.

“The pandemic created an opportunity for hospitality workers—many of whom were furloughed or lost their jobs—to reevaluate their employment situation and consider other career options moving forward,” the study noted. “A significant percentage are clearly taking advantage and pursuing higher-paying, less physically demanding jobs.

The report did indicate the most effective means of winning applicants who are currently opposed to working in restaurants. More than 1 in 4 job hunters (26%) said they’d reconsider if the pay rates were more attractive. About 14% said a better package of benefits would rekindle their interest.

In a validation of the tactic that’s become commonplace within the industry, 12% of the respondents said their aversion to a hospitality job would be eroded by a signing bonus. Three percent said the availability of free food would be a lure.

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