Weary workers endure a service shortage

By Rose Gottschalk

It’s easy to notice the “help wanted” signs popping up in restaurant windows, especially when they have attention grabbers like “student loan forgiveness,” “mentorship programs,” and “free meal with every shift” posted on walls, websites, and counters. The signs all point to a single issue society is facing; the shortage of workers in the food industry.

Restaurants have to pull all the stops in order to bring in job applicators. And after that, they have to try and keep the workers there. These eye-catching advertisements are what keeps workers working, with the incoming and outgoing flow of employees, but restaurants can’t rely on this method if they want to stay open.

“Teenage employment is expected to shrink by 600,000 from 2016 to 2026,” according to Restaurant Dive writer, Alicia Kelso. Teenagers aren’t working in the food industry, and when they do it’s not for long.

For many people, working with food isn’t ideal. Take to any social media platform and there are jokes and memes about the poor treatment of customers and about what insanity workers face in their crazy hours. This industry has become something people look down on, to the point that they refuse to even try working there.

“Declining labor force participation is often a cause for concern as it can contribute to declines in output per capita and may reflect barriers to work or a weak job market,” said Lauren Bauer, Patrick Liu, Emily Moss, Ryan Nunn, and Jay Shambaugh, writers for brookings.edu. “At the same time, the reasons for declining teen labor force participation seem to reflect increasing time spent in school during the summer as well as a decline in labor force participation while in school during the academic year.”

So there’s a decline in labor force in teenagers, but for a good reason: education. They are going to school to get a better education so they don’t have to work in food service, but restaurants are suffering for it. Not only restaurants, but dining services like on Loras Campus.

“People just don’t want to work nights or weekends,” said Joe Kuhse, chef for the café here on campus. “They want a nine to five job.” Kuhse has been working overtime for over a year now as Aramark has been searching for a night cook.

When Asian and pasta station first closed in the cafe, people were complaining. But it all comes back to the shortage of workers. Without the bodies to properly man the stations, cuts have to be made to save the current workers from stress and working overtime. Unless more people are interested in these jobs, the stations will continue to stay closed.

The usual cooks for these stations, Jacque Frye and Kay Conner, are both transitioning to work in the pub.

“At the end of the day, I was exhausted. Working in the kitchen, for me, is more enjoyable,” Frye said. “It’s also better hours.” She is currently still in the café, covering for Debbie Leach Bechen, who is on medical leave.

So next time you’re in the café, Einstein’s, or the pub, thank the workers. They work hard to make sure students can eat late at night, especially around finals, when you’re up until 1 a.m. writing a paper or up early in the morning to get some extra studying in.

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Rose Gottschalk is a copy editor for The Lorian.

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