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Restaurant Staff Shortage: How Food Service Workers Feel About the Industry in 2023

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By: KURU Footwear

We’ve all seen the headlines about a shortage of restaurant staff the last few years, and many of us have felt the impact when we dine out. Of course no one feels the shortage more intensely than the workers themselves, and the effects of the pandemic have been far reaching.

As we begin 2023, we wanted to get a sense for how the folks who are still working in the restaurant industry are holding up. We surveyed 800 food service workers to take a pulse on their feelings—from how they like their current job, to whether or not they plan to leave the industry.

The Restaurant Industry Today

Most people we surveyed seem to enjoy working in the restaurant industry, even if the current shortage and other stresses are leading to feelings of burnout overall. More than half of restaurant workers (58%) report they are happy or extremely happy when asked about job satisfaction, but roughly that same amount (56%) say they feel burned out by their job right now. Only 16% say they feel unhappy or extremely unhappy.

Most of these restaurant workers have experience in the industry—only 8% have been in the field for less than a year, while 62% have been in the industry for more than three years. When it comes to compensation, 57% say they are satisfied with their current wage.

While 32% of workers said they are not satisfied with current working conditions, the numbers below show there is a wide mix of feelings about their jobs overall.

Percent of restaurant workers who feel:

  1. Happy                45%
  2. Stressed            37%
  3. Content             34%
  4. Overworked      34%
  5. Exhausted         32%

how restaurant workers feel about their job

The Food Service Worker Shortage

No one feels the pinch of a shortage more than those who remain and pick up the work left behind. So it’s no surprise that most of the folks we surveyed (68%) feel like there is a staff shortage right now. And 13% think there will be a shortage in the future.

Speaking of feeling the pinch, 90% of the workers we surveyed worked overtime, double shifts or extra shifts in 2022. Of those, 75% of them said they did so because of a staff shortage. It can be hard to stick with any job, even a job you love, when you’re feeling overworked. Most respondents (62%) said they’ve considered leaving the restaurant industry in the past month!

How Many Jobs Are Available in Restaurants in Each State

restaurant food service job openings by state

A staff shortage does mean an abundance of available food service jobs. We wanted to find out which states had the most and the least job openings in restaurants, take a look at the map for a quick snapshot of that data.

Hawaii, Nevada and Florida lead the pack when it comes to the highest number of job openings. Conversely it’s Oregon, New York and Washington that have the lowest number of openings. Check out the top 10 for both categories below:

States with highest number of restaurant job openings per 1,000 people:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Nevada
  3. Florida
  4. Tennessee
  5. Delaware
  6. South Carolina
  7. Georgia
  8. New Hampshire
  9. Ohio
  10. Missouri

States with the lowest number of restaurant job openings per 1,000 people:

  1. Oregon
  2. New York
  3. Washington
  4. Arkansas
  5. Alaska
  6. New Jersey
  7. Connecticut
  8. Wyoming
  9. Mississippi
  10. Idaho

Pain on the Job

Restaurant workers aren’t just feeling the metaphorical pain of a staff shortage. For many of them, the pain is all too literal. One in three (33%) said they have been injured while at their restaurant and food service job!

Many of these workers are carrying their workplace on their backs in the midst of the shortage, which is quite a feat. On that note, the two most common sites for pain are in their backs and feet, with a variety of other ailments rounding out the list.

  • Back pain – 46%
  • Foot pain/sore feet – 45%
  • Shoulder pain – 23%
  • Ankle pain – 22%
  • Sore arms/hands – 20%
  • Knee pain – 19%
  • Plantar Fasciitis (heel pain) – 7%

It’s no surprise foot pain is near the top of the list, as most restaurant workers spend entire shifts walking and standing. Fortunately, the right shoes can help reduce foot pain by offering complete cushion and supreme support for all-day comfort. That’s why we build our patented KURUSOLE technology into every pair of shoes we make at KURU.

The shortage is also taking a toll in the mental realm. More than half (54%) of workers have felt stressed, 39% of them report feeling fatigued, and one in five said they have experienced insomnia.

The Future of the Industry

So what does all of this data mean for the future of the restaurant industry? From the perspective of workers, more than one in four (27%) of them think they will have left the industry a year from now. When you extend that outlook even further to three years, nearly half (42%) of workers say they expect to be in a different industry by then.

Workers say when it comes to their job satisfaction the most important thing is pay (as chosen by 46% of those surveyed) and the second most is flexibility at 20%.

Methodology and Sources

KURU Footwear surveyed 800 Americans 18 years and older, who currently (as of December 2022) work in the food/restaurant service industry. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 4% and a confidence level of 95%.

To find the number of open jobs in each state, we searched Indeed.com for “Hiring Restaurant” by state. We then used United States state-level population data from the US Census Bureau to find the number of open jobs per 1,000 people.

Sources: KURU Footwear proprietary survey, conducted December 2022

About Us

At KURU, we’re on a mission to help you Heel Better™ with footwear technology designed to relieve foot pain, so you can live a life you love. Since launching our innovative technology in 2008, we’ve received more than 31,000 five-star reviews from thousands of customers who tell us their KURU shoes helped them with conditions (such as plantar fasciitis) and got them back to doing what they love. Explore our guide to the best shoes for plantar fasciitis to find a pair that fits your needs.

For all media inquiries, please contact us at pr@kurufootwear.com.