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Are Low Wages Driving Away Restaurant Staff?

About 76% of restaurant workers surveyed by One Fair Wage say they would leave due to low wages.
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More than half (53%) of restaurant workers surveyed say they are considering leaving their restaurant jobs, with the overwhelming majority of them citing low wages and tips as a core reason for finding new employment, according to a new report, "It’s A Wage Shortage, Not A Worker Shortage: Why Restaurant Workers, Particularly Mothers, Are Leaving the Industry and What Would Make Them Stay."

The report, from One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit that advocates on behalf of subminimum wage workers, and the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, comes as  restaurants across the country are reporting difficulty hiring new workers, with nearly 40% of restaurant companies saying they're having trouble finding servers, cooks and other workers.

The report identifies how the core problem with restaurants recruiting workers isn’t the lack of workers available, but rather, the lack of workers who will go back to jobs that pay so little. The report finds that: 

  • ‘Low wages and tips’ was by far the most popular reason for leaving the industry, more than 20 percentage points higher than the second most popular reason — COVID health risks. Mothers were ten percentage points more likely to say they are leaving restaurants due to low wages and tips compared to non-mothers (80% v 71%).

  • The vast majority of all respondents (78%) report having a full, stable, livable wage would make them consider staying at their job. Again, ‘full, stable, livable wages’ was by far the most popular factor that workers reported would make them stay at their job, nearly 30 percentage points higher than the second most popular factor — paid sick leave.

“As bad as the subminimum wage always was, it’s even harder now. I have a lot of colleagues who are leaving the restaurant industry because it’s not worth it without One Fair Wage.” —Annette Alcala, Restaurant Worker, New York, NY

“If a large percentage of our workforce decides to leave the restaurant industry, none of the other relief efforts will have mattered. You can’t run a restaurant without a staff. It’s time we raise wages and ensure that we can attract and retain good talent in our industry. — CHEF RON HSU Owner, Lazy Betty’s Atlanta, Georgia. 

Download the report: 

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