In December 2019, the unemployment rate for Leisure and Hospitality was 5%. A year later, that number tripled to 16.7%. While it's not certain whether restaurants that have closed shortened the curve for COVID, it is certain that it displaced millions of workers that depend on the restaurants and taprooms being open to be able to make an income.
Restaurants have ups and downs like most businesses and like most businesses, they rely on the ups to carry them through the downs. What COVID did was exploit the restaurants that were barely hanging on, forcing them to call it quits when the opportunity to make money was taken from them. What some people may not know, that's common knowledge in hospitality, is January and February are traditionally slower months, especially in the colder regions of the US. While they're trying to make it through those lean months, they know they have March right around the corner, where you have the combination of March Madness and St. Patrick's Day to carry you through to the spring/ summer rush.
We're Ready to Open, Where's My Staff Now?
While the leisure and hospitality sector, including restaurants, accounted for the bulk of employment creation in April, adding 331,000 jobs - it’s still not enough to meet the surge in demand. Chipotle is among the hospitality brands trying to reel in employees with wages of up to $18 per hour and impressive benefits that include free college tuition. Just last month, Taco Bell launched a hiring spree to hire 5,000 employees in one day. By and large, most restaurant operators say that their current staffing levels are below normal. Some believe low wages are driving away restaurant staff. Others blame the extension in unemployment benefits.
This has made it increasingly difficult for restaurants to fill their rosters with front of house and back of house workers. The shutdown has caused a large percent of the people that were laid off to look for other ways to make a living. This challenge is now on the shoulders of the owners. Their choices at this point are to recruit, hire and train people with no prior experience in hospitality or get in bidding wars for higher pay for experienced servers, cooks and managers. Both come with their own sets of challenges.
Let's Look Behind Curtain Number 3
The 2 options mentioned previously are options, but there is a third option. Smart operators are looking towards self-pour technology to deliver them from this hiring purgatory. If you have 40 taps in your taproom, you likely need 3-4 bartenders taking orders, entering orders, pouring drinks, closing tabs, etc. Instead of having to recruit, hire and train new bartenders and servers or pay experienced ones more, the evolution of allowing customers to become their own bartenders has become an obvious choice. In the midst of the pandemic, demand for self-pour tap walls reached an all-time high. Every month since July the amount of web traffic to the industry-leading company in this space's website as well as the number of quote requests has increased. Owners are consistently citing the obvious benefits of self-pour as their motivation for making the transition.
Liquid Agnostic Self-Pour
Why stop with just allowing guests to pour their own beers, why not let them pour their own pre-made craft cocktails or wine, or non-alcoholic drinks. The "I want it now" generation is here and they're not going anywhere. The most logical way to allow someone to get what they want now, is to let them have it and charge them for whatever they pour. That's exactly what self-pour is catering to. The perfect storm of labor costs increasing, ease of access moving up the priority list and the ability to run a profitable business in hospitality all make it abundantly clear that the demand for self-pour will continue to go up.