Five Ways The Great Resignation Will Change Restaurants Forever

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Angela Keen
March 23, 2022

The Great Resignation has changed the world. With so many people leaving their jobs for greener pastures, business owners are stuck with the aftermath. However, adaptive restaurant owners have always found ways to survive and exceed expectations and it will be no different as they face and respond to an event that has changed the way restaurants operate forever. 

Below, we will address five ways in which this event has changed restaurant owners’ dealings forever. But first, we need to understand the reasons behind this mass exodus. 

What is The Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation refers to the huge numbers of workers who have left their positions to find alternative employment options or chosen to leave the workforce entirely. 

Much of this event, otherwise known as The Big Quit, is related to heightened stress levels from the COVID-19 pandemic. When a whole new layer of sickness and concern consumes you 

Beyond that, those participating in this mass exodus of workers had a lot of time on their hands. When looking at those in the restaurant industry, this became abundantly clear. 

Why is The Great Resignation happening at restaurants?

Service workers participating in The Big Quit often cite these reasons:

  • low pay
  • increasingly challenging customers
  • long hours 
  • inflexible scheduling
  • employer abuse


The Big Quit is happening for a wide range of reasons. But many owners are relating this issue to worker shortage. Based on the reasons above, this shortage comes from owners who fail to address problems.

Imagine you work at a place that sells hamburgers, and someone screams at you for having cheese on their cheeseburger. You try to inform them that “cheese” is literally in the title, but they demand a full refund, multiple free meals, and an opportunity to criticize you in front of your boss.


Yes, these people exist.

If your boss took this opportunity to affirm the shopper’s ridiculous assumptions, how long would you stay? The answer: probably not more than ten seconds if you could help it. The “customer is always right” mentality ultimately damages businesses by having a negative impact on their employees and wasting management time on foolish problems. 

Cheeseless cheeseburgers aside, we go through the actual impact on restaurants below. 

the great resignation

How has The Great Resignation impacted restaurants?

Regarding owners, about 80% of them say they lack the staff to meet customer demand. Recruitment is a top challenge for both owners and experienced industry veterans. About 20% of owners believe there will never be a return to normal operating levels.  


Here are some figures related to employees: 


December 2021 figures show 16% of the service industry workforce have quit, with an additional 60% of employees planning to join them. One in ten of those workers have followed this up by pursuing training programs with no plans to return to the service industry. Some have decided to do this regardless of how much their bosses offer them. 

How will The Great Resignation change restaurants forever?

The Great Resignation has changed things for the time being without question. But which of these changes are expected to stay? Here are some thoughts: 

  • employees will expect prompt pay for their work
  • human resources will become incredibly important as workers demand more accommodations
  • the push for technology will grow stronger and stronger 
  • workplace flexibility will become a much bigger deal 
  • automation will replace some workers in repetitive jobs 

You might think that some of these will revert, with the pandemic being a more significant catalyst for stress. However, assuming that there will be a return to “work as usual” won’t help you. The ability to adapt is paramount in ensuring that you can remain competitive.

Below, we will go through five ways The Great Resignation will change your restaurant forever. To ensure you stay on top of these changes, check out the complete list of options. 

1 - Introducing the expectation of instant pay.

Several years ago, the idea of a bi-weekly paycheck wasn’t out of the question. Servers, who usually receive a smaller chunk of this, expect regular tips to supplement the difference. However, given significant changes, there is a substantial rise in those wanting instant pay.

Instant pay happens when your employees require more consistent payouts for their work. Often, this request is made daily, but some people also like being paid the same day for the few hours of work they commit. 

Instant pay is a much bigger problem for those who survive on tips. Waiting two to four weeks for tips and accessing those tips via checks or cards is challenging. If you have to support a family, waiting for money isn’t ideal. 

As an owner, you might be inclined to push against this. However, innovative instant pay companies provide staff and owners the flexibility to provide these instant payments. 

Think of it this way:

If someone orders wine, steak, and the trimmings of an expensive meal, you wouldn’t want them to pay two weeks later. Instead, you’d like to receive that payment sooner, ideally before you give them the product. 

When you think of your employees as service providers, the logic stays the same. Why shouldn’t they expect more immediate payment for their work? As more employees understand this, the demand for instant payment will only increase. 

Think of it like the JG Wentworth commercials from back in the day: “It’s my money, and I need it now!”  We can all agree with that sentiment. 

2 - Redefining the importance of HR.

Human Resources is becoming increasingly important. Classically speaking, small restaurants didn’t have much in the way of HR. However, the new age has much higher demands when it comes to managing people. 

You can expect HR to have increasing importance in the coming years. Here are some aspects worth looking out for:

  • Changes in onboarding. Self-onboarding is new for restaurants, not for other industries. Restaurants need to narrow their targets by focusing on people who contribute to their business. No more can you tolerate people who don’t have passion for the industry. Some McDonald’s locations have found a creative way to attract people to interviews by offering them $50 to show up, valuing their time. 
  • Increases in employee retention efforts. Keeping the employees you have is necessary for passing the torch. Experienced employees in the service industry are becoming increasingly rare, meaning you will have to put in extra effort to recognize their value. For employees, this means serious conversations about pay and benefits. 
  • Finding creative ways to boost KPIs. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) need to be creatively managed in restaurants. No longer can you expect a team of people to crank out orders at the same rate despite having lower staffing levels. Instead, KPIs need to be flexible in response to your staff, working towards systems that allow your employees to focus on what matters most. 
  • Addressing employee needs. Like you, employees need to take the time to have mental health days and handle family emergencies. The Antiwork Reddit is full of examples of owners who lack an understanding of changes in employee needs. Focus on employee results rather than on time missed. When you show a willingness to work with employees, most of these issues will be easily fixed.

We know restaurant owners don’t usually have the money to fund a full HR department. We’re not talking about that—just saying that it is important to treat employees in a HR department style. 

You shouldn’t them run you down while you try and figure out how to fit a foosball table into the break room. Instead, respect people that provide you a service and be willing to pay for that service. 

If your employees are good with customers and work fast, pay them what they are worth. On the other hand, if they aren’t good at what they do, don’t hesitate to try and find a replacement. HR is about managing the resources you have by respecting needs and being clear about the expectations of the job. 

3 - Forcing the evolution of lasting technology.

For some industries, evolving technology is scary. After all, employees may think that the introduction of  touchscreen threatens their position. Nevertheless, the push for technology is becoming stronger and expected to grow even further rather than diminish. 

As an owner, it is your job to prepare employees for that possibility by being honest about your plans. Employees will respect this as a means of providing your more ambitious staff with opportunities. 

However, not all technology is meant to replace your frontline workers. Some technology acts as a support mechanism—for example, people management technology

Navigating a dynamic workforce requires a lot of time and talent. By automating most processes (onboarding, payment information, document retrieval), you won’t need to pay for an office worker to handle it for you. 

However, the existence of pizza vending machines tells us that there are innovative ways of managing food services. It is only a matter of time before this expands to other food vending. But these should be considered an alternative, not a replacement, to the customer dining experience. 

4 - Normalizing flexible and balanced work environments.

With staffing shortages and growing numbers of people not wanting to work for the service industry, finding people who will be there for you 40 hours a week  is going to be challenging. Flexible and balanced work schedules solve this problem.

In adverse scenarios, having a few passionate individuals willing to work for short periods is beneficial. In one example, more than half of the staff asking for a 4-day work week saw less stress, fewer callouts, and reduced sick days

Using modern scheduling technology is one way to make this easier. Accessing this information from a dedicated staffing dashboard prevents you from scrambling. Managers who have to scan through Excel spreadsheets every day often hit a brick wall. 

With a more significant push for trying new things and a higher demand for work-life balance, flexible scheduling meets many needs. As lifestyles change and people want to explore their passion, adapting to those needs makes you more powerful. It’s a win-win scenario for businesses that can work with employee needs.

5 - A more realistic expectation of employee passion.

If you are a restaurant owner, you will be putting a lot of hours into your business. But if you are looking to hire someone to put as many (if not more) hours into the same business, you are lying to yourself. 

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, has this to say about expecting employees to work as much as you do:

“As a CEO, it’s ludicrous to expect your employees to work as much as you do. It’s your business. So of course your employees don’t ‘love it’ as much.”

It is rare to find employees who have an incredible passion for the service industry. It is absolute insanity to expect them to put as much effort into the business as you when only getting paid a fraction of what you make. 

Give them half of your business if you want them to care about it as much as you do. If you don’t want to do that, you need to accept that working for you is a stepping stone for the employee. 

Seeing phrases like “multitasking required” and “being a team player” are automatic reasons to avoid your business. Having narrow and defined job roles describing what you expect will avoid arguments. 

You can’t expect your employees to have your level of passion. However, you should expect your employees to have some love for doing well. Expecting anything more is absolute insanity. 

Wrap up - Tips on how restaurants can survive The Great Resignation.

In staying on top of these changes, here are some quick tips:

  • Listen to your employees and their needs
  • Do what you can to understand how to retain your employees 
  • Be first when bringing up this conversation to show you are engaged
  • Actively research what it will take to exceed entry-level positions
  • Offer opportunities for growth and have a clear pathway upward
  • Don’t expect employees to work more than you 
  • Adopt technology to make this easier

The Big Quit is no joke when losing your employees. But by following these tips and ensuring you have the tools to operate quickly and effectively, you won’t have to worry as much about your entire staff walking out. 


If you want to learn more about the checklists you should use to keep great people, download our free guide below! 

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