June 07, 2021 at 12:52AM

Many restaurant operators turned to apps or app-based delivery services to keep their kitchens busy during the pandemic. With eateries reopening, CNBC reported, restaurant operators have turned to apps to address what, in some places, has been the desperate pursuit of staff.

“The labor pool is still, unfortunately, more of a labor puddle,” Matt Bolus, executive chef at The 404 Kitchen in Nashville told CNBC.

A January report from the National Restaurant Association cited by CNBC described the effect of the pandemic on the sector. According to the trade group, restaurant and food service sales for calendar year 2020 were $240 billion less than had been forecasted. Through Dec. 1, 2020, 110,000 establishments had closed, some for good, and 2.5 million U.S. restaurant jobs had been lost at that point due to the pandemic.

According to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics cited by CNBC, the unemployment rate in the category that includes eating and drinking establishments was 9 percent in May. By comparison, the national unemployment rate had recovered to 5.8 percent by May.

Overall U.S. unemployment during the pandemic peaked at about 15 percent in May 2020. In commentary accompanying the release of the data, Bureau of Labor Statistics economists wrote: “Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in public and private education, and in healthcare and social assistance.”

Ben Ellsworth, founder and CEO of staffing app GigPro told CNBC: “We’ve been in what the press has called a ‘hospitality staffing crisis’ for over a decade.”

Ellsworth said, per CNBC, part of the challenge for operators of restaurants is that many workers found new, higher-paying jobs in sectors such as construction or landscaping while restaurants were closed due to the pandemic.

In May, Milwaukee restaurateur and chef Dan Jacobs told Bloomberg that his chain’s survival was in doubt due to the difficulty of hiring workers.

“It’s a coin flip,” he told Bloomberg. “I have to be realistic and realize there is a distinct chance this will not work.”

PYMNTS reported that the Federal Reserve system’s most recent version of the national economic conditions survey, called the Beige Book, stated June 2: “Overall, wage growth was moderate, and a growing number of firms offered signing bonuses and increased starting wages to attract and retain workers. Contacts expected that labor demand will remain strong, but supply constrained, in the months ahead.”

Data: About Half Of Restaurants Operating With 20 Pct Less Staff …

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