A third of former hospitality workers won’t return to the industry during the labor shortage because they want higher pay, better benefits, and a new work environment

New York waiter
A waiter wears a face mask at a restaurant in New York City on November 10, 2020. Noam Galai/Getty Images
  • A third of former hospitality workers say they won’t return to the industry at all, per a survey by Joblist.
  • They want better pay and benefits than the industry can offer, they say.
  • Hospitality pays less than other industries, but the labor shortage is forcing companies to push wages up.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Low pay, bad benefits, and a stressful workplace are putting off former restaurant and hotel staff from returning to the industry, according to a survey by job site Joblist.

Massive lay-offs, remote working, and caring responsibilities have forced thousands of Americans to consider switching their careers during the pandemic. Some were forced out of their roles because their employers downsized or even shut down during the pandemic. Others have been “rage quitting” in search of better pay and conditions.

Half of former hospitality workers said that they wouldn’t return to their previous job in the industry, according to the survey. A third of former hospitality workers said they weren’t even considering reentering the industry, according to Joblist’s second-quarter survey of around 13,000 job seekers, first reported by Bloomberg.

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Just over half of respondents said that they were switching industries because they wanted a different work setting. About 45% said they wanted higher pay, and 29% wanted better benefits.

One in five said they wanted jobs with more flexibility, and 16% said they wanted to work remotely.

One former chef told Insider in June that he switched from 80-hour weeks working in a restaurant to a career in software development after restaurants shut and he had the time to return to education.

Wages in the hospitality sector are growing

Traditionally, the hospitality sector pays much lower wages than other industries. The average pay for hourly workers in non-supervisory roles in the leisure and hospitality sector was $16.21 in June, compared to $25.68 across private non-farm payrolls, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)’s June jobs report.

But the hospitality sector, like many other industries across the US, is in the midst of a huge labor shortage that’s forcing some companies to push up wages.

McDonald’s is lifting wages in its corporate-owned restaurants by an average of 10%. A Texas chicken restaurant chain is giving teenage fast-food workers $50,000-a-year manager jobs. And an ice-cream parlor in Pittsburgh more than doubled its wage to $15 an hour – and says it received “well over 1,000 [job] applications.”

Average pay for hourly workers in non-supervisory roles in the leisure and hospitality sector jumped from $15.84 an hour in May to $16.21 in June, BLS data shows. It typically takes a whole year for wages to grow this much, The Washington Post reported.

Companies are rolling out other perks, too, like sign-on bonuses, fitness machines, and iPhones.

But the sector is still struggling to find workers. The leisure and hospitality sector added 343,000 jobs in June – but total employment across the sector is still down by 2.2 million, or 12.9%, from February 2020.

The labor shortage caused some businesses to cut operating hours, slash production, and raise prices. Nearly half of US restaurant owners said they struggled to pay their rent in May because staffing shortages reduced their revenues.

The Federal Reserve said that the labor squeeze could last months, but Bank of America expects the job market to recover by early 2022.