Report: Hospitality Workers Could Quit in Droves in 2021

    Only 42 percent are satisfied with their job. 

    Dissatisfied waitress.
    Adobe Stock
    Forty-five percent of hospitality employees who remained in the industry reported lower job satisfaction.

    American workers are quitting their jobs at unprecedented rates, and restaurant workers continue to be a main contributor to what is often being dubbed the “Great Resignation,” according to a new report by Joblist.

    The survey received feedback from more than 25,000 job seekers across the country over the past three months.

    One-third of hospitality workers reported being “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their jobs. Meanwhile 15 percent were unsatisfied prior to the pandemic. To date, only 42 percent report being satisfied with their jobs compared to 64 percent pre-pandemic. Even more stark, 58 percent said they are planning to quit before the end of 2021. 

    The pandemic appears to have brought greater unhappiness at work for restaurant employees. Forty-five percent of hospitality employees who remained in the industry reported lower job satisfaction, and only 9 percent reported higher satisfaction. Those who are dissatisfied are twice as likely to say they are planning to quit than those who are satisfied at 80 and 39 percent, respectively.

    Of the former hospitality workers surveyed, 25 percent reported they would not want to work in the industry again. The reasons included low pay (56 percent), desire for a new career path (50 percent), lack of benefits (39 percent), difficult customers (38 percent), scheduling inflexibility and long hours (34 percent), COVID-19 risk (23 percent), and the physical demands of work (23 percent).

    The report shows not all former restaurant employees left because they were drawn to other opportunities; 16 percent were unemployed. For the group that moved to a new industry, 17 percent switched to an in-person office job while another 17 percent found a work-from-home job. Former employees also found work in industrial settings (13 percent), healthcare (11 percent) and as drivers (6 percent).

    Education may be a strong appeal to move employees away from restaurant work. Over one-quarter of former and current hospitality workers say they’re considering going back to school or enrolling in a training program to find a new occupation, and 11 percent are already doing that.

    Hospitality workers weren’t the only ones who reported dissatisfaction with their jobs. In fact, 73 percent of employed workers are actively thinking about quitting their jobs. And one-quarter of Joblist job seekers said they would feel comfortable quitting their job without a new one lined up.

    The employees who already quit cited poor treatment by their employer during the pandemic (19 percent), low pay or lack of benefits (17 percent) and lack of work-life balance (13 percent) as key reasons. Bucking the remote work bandwagon, fewer than 3 percent of all workers who quit claimed it was because they didn’t want to return to in-person work.

    When it comes to the hospitality sector specifically, workers quit primarily due to low pay and lack of benefits, which have continued to be an issue throughout the industry. But there’s data that suggests employees will stay if some of their grievances are addressed; around one-third of Joblist job seekers said they would change their mind if this was the case. Fourteen percent of job seekers thinking about quitting would stay in their jobs if everything changed, and one-quarter would not stay under any circumstances.

    “Many American workers are frustrated by their employment situation and are taking a step back to consider other options. However, our Q3 report indicates that one-third of workers who are thinking about quitting would change their minds if just some of their grievances were addressed by their employer,” said Joblist CEO Kevin Harrington in a statement. “Employers would do well to listen to employee concerns and make adjustments where possible. The power is shifting more and more to the workers, and employers will need to be responsive in order to attract and retain talent.”

    The “Great Resignation” trend is seemingly sticking among the job market. Of a sample of 7,000 job seekers across the U.S., 22 percent willingly quit their previous job. There might be a generational dynamic at play, too; workers in their 20s (around one-third) were more likely to have quit their previous jobs than older workers (20 percent) or teenagers.

    As students returned to in-person schooling, parents felt more equipped to conduct a job search. The report found 22 percent of working parents expect the return to in-person learning will make their job search easier. This was especially heightened for mothers compared to fathers (25 percent versus 17 percent).  

    The survey also discovered that job seeker confidence has shifted greatly since it reached its highest levels three months ago. The onset of the Delta variant likely triggered this drop; in September, only 34 percent of job seekers said they expect the job market to improve next month, down from the 43 percent high in June. Still, the share of job seekers who viewed the job market as “easy” increased over the quarter, from 16 percent in July to 19 percent in September.

    There are nearly 11 million job openings currently available, a record high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.