Published 04 August 2020
In some countries, food businesses are reopening their doors and bringing back their staff that have been furloughed since the early days of the pandemic. In the United States, this has lead to a surge in restaurant employment in recent weeks. For other countries such as Canada, Australia and Britain, there are varying degrees of success as some continue to struggle with reopenings.
According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US restaurant industry has gained back 2.9 million jobs. This past June, restaurants have added nearly 1.5 million jobs as many food businesses were permitted to reopen to the public and begin dine-in service again. These numbers indicate that the restaurant industry is moving in the right direction after suffering from significant losses due to COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns across the United States.
The restaurant industry hit a low of 6.3 million jobs in April, but with gaining over half of the jobs lost due to the pandemic, the industry now employs approximately 9.2 million workers. Unfortunately, this is still a ways off from pre-pandemic numbers, which saw the 12.3 million workers in the food industry in February (before shutdowns led to business closures and layoffs).
There are some concerns arising about how long this pattern will continue. Recently, some states have began pausing their reopening plans due to rising COVID-19 case numbers. This is causing food businesses to hold off on hiring or bringing back furloughed staff. Despite these concerns, the overall trajectory at this time appears to be moving towards recovery.
A recent survey by The Harris Poll reveals that Canadian businesses are more optimistic about hiring in the second half of the year compared to their responses earlier in the year. Of the respondents polled, 24% say their company will increase employees and 18% say they will decrease employment. These numbers are very different from the beginning of the pandemic, where only 16% said they would increase employment and 37% expected to decrease employment.
What a business will end up doing appears to be related to how they have fared so far during the pandemic. Canadian food businesses have been hit hard during the pandemic, but many have show resiliency by adapting their business models to the ‘new normal’. Curtis Debogorski, Express franchise owner in Red Deer, Alberta, states that companies who are able “to adapt or streamline their service/products to meet the demands of customers” will be the ones hiring more employees as restrictions ease.
Australia has been at the forefront of success against the coronavirus, achieving very low COVID-19 case numbers and moving to reopening phases that allowed many food businesses to conduct dine-in service again in recent weeks. Restaurants brought back furloughed workers and began hiring campaigns in order to fill open positions. This movement towards recovery and success in the restaurant industry has given hope to other countries around the world that are still struggling with high case numbers.
Despite the overall success achieved by the country, Victoria — the country’s second-largest state in terms of population — has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases which has prompted the state to move back into strict lockdowns. This is devastating for food businesses within the state, many of which were beginning to climb out of the financial hole the previous shutdown had caused. Food workers across Victoria are back on leave and business owners are unsure that they can survive this second lockdown. The situation in Australia illustrates that when given the opportunity, food businesses are eager to hire and bring back their valued employees. The hope is that the strict shutdown measures in Victoria bring the virus back under control and that food businesses can reopen and rehire their employees once again.
The British government has pledged to pay 50% of restaurant and pub bills during the month of August in a bid to encourage people to dine out again. The goal of the “Eat Out to Help Out” plan is to encourage the public to visit their favorite restaurants in order to help food businesses recover from the shutdown. The plan will support 130,000 businesses and protects the jobs of their 1.8 million employees. The government recognizes that this is vital to the success of the British restaurant industry, especially since the UK food and accommodation industry furloughed over 1.4 million workers since March.
Food workers are slowly coming back to their jobs and food businesses are beginning to take stock of what their staff needs will be moving forward. It remains to be seen whether the “Eat Out to Help Out” plan will help to stimulate recovery for British restaurants, but food businesses and their staff are hoping that it will.