Understanding the 21st Century Restaurant

Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

After watching Hulu’s “The Bear,” I felt as though I was shown a glimpse into a different universe. The show was so raw and illustrative of the stress-inducing, fast-paced environment that a restaurant’s kitchen creates. The complexity of the relationships and hierarchies between chefs in addition to the true dedication that is required sheds a light on the lives of chefs at such an important period in the restaurant industry. New York Post explains that the supply of restaurant staff, including executive chefs, is dwindling relative to the current demand needed to keep kitchens open. Why is the supply so low and what needs to be done to make this line of work more desirable?

Restaurant workers, typically having to endure limited pay and benefits, are experiencing long hours in stressful environments which is not attracting people to chef positions at the rate at which it is demanded in our current labor market. New York Post offers one possibility for an increasing demand that deals with people wanting to eat out more following the pandemic that enforced so many restrictions. But while the pandemic may push people to want to go to restaurants more, it seems to have had the opposite effect for the people working in them. 

It is important to understand that while demand is increasing, the number of chefs entering the labor market is not increasing at the same rate. The Washington Post provides a visual for what this looks like in culinary schools. They interviewed recent culinary school graduate Yadiska van Putten and found that while she pursued her dream of becoming an executive chef, her other culinary school peers went in different directions. Many of those students, according to van Putten, came into their studies with similar ambitions but have settled into different culinary occupations due to the undesirability and uncertainty surrounding the restaurant industry coming out of a pandemic. This illustrates how incoming workers aren’t gravitating towards the restaurant space, but it is also imperative to add that many chefs and other restaurant staff who worked before the pandemic have left the industry. New York Post explains how many people were forced to take on jobs that were still open throughout the pandemic when the restaurant they were employed at had closed down. And why come back to a line of work that can be put on pause again if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens again or a new pandemic arises? Stability is crucial.

The pandemic has also transformed the way that people value their time. Younger generations who are just beginning to enter the workforce are analyzing how much time they are willing to commit to work. In order to keep restaurants open, there needs to be an incentive for people to want to work in them. This is a trend that New York Post shows to be already circulating by restaurant owners, as restaurants are having to offer higher salaries and benefits in order to keep or attract chefs and remain open. Overall, the restaurant industry needs to adapt to the changing attitudes and perspectives of workers and meet the demands of their employees to foster a stable and worthwhile work environment that will attract more people. And what can you do? Support your local restaurants, respect and show gratitude towards the restaurant staff during this transitional period where restaurant staff may be having to take on extra responsibilities and hours as a result of this staffing shortage. 

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