But the queue winding through the lobby seemed a harbinger of things to come.
According to early evidence and experts, persistent labor shortages in the hospitality and leisure industry translate into dropping customer service prices, long delays and other frustrations, no. only this winter, but beyond.
They say a vicious cycle can ensue, with even more employees quitting in the face of heavier workloads, longer hours, angry guests, dropping tips and new variants of COVID.
“The sore spot in hospitality has always been for the worker – the low wages, the lack of security,” said Ben Ellsworth, former boss and founder of the Gigpro recruiting app. “This painful point has now fallen on the company. Then it will affect the end user, the customer.
A new study by researchers at the University of Central Florida finds that about a third of hospitality workers who have lost their jobs have no plans to return, and a third of those who are still working are considering to follow them outside. Nearly a million people left in August, double the overall national dropout rate.
In September, one in six vacancies in the country were in the hospitality and recreation industry, according to the US Travel Association. At the rate they are filled, the association said, the industry will not be fully staffed again until at least November 2022.
It comes just as winter travel intensifies.
Rory Bevins, senior vice president of La Bottega, which provides amenities to the largest hotel chains, said that only one luxury hotel in Miami he works with had 100 openings before the season.
Employees “only see more stress and longer hours,” said Robertico Croes, co-author of the UCF study. “Having angry customers, negativity – workers can’t cope. There is a threshold. My concern is that the level of experience decreases, as does the service, and soon customers are not getting what they expected.
This is already the case, survey data show.
The US consumer satisfaction index for hotels is at its lowest level in a decade. The guest satisfaction survey of JD Power hotels in North America shows declining guest satisfaction scores on almost every level, from economy to luxury. The proportion of one, two and three bubble (out of five) reviews containing the word “understaffed” has more than doubled this year, according to Needham-based Tripadvisor.
“People’s patience has worn off,” said restaurant consultant Izzy Kharasch. “They are ready to go out and do things. Everyone has heard of the labor shortage and knows what’s going on, but it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting there with your family and waiting for your dinner.
Instead, consumers will find restaurants open for fewer hours with longer waits and reduced menus, or some locations closed so staff can be reassigned to others.
A “wage war” is already underway to attract workers, said Brooks Kirchheimer, chef and owner of Hearth and Hill restaurant in Park City, Utah, and president-elect of the Ski Town Chamber of Commerce. This helps to push up the prices.
Hotels are also increasing the salaries of their employees, said Rosanna Maietta, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association Foundation. The foundation is planning a nationwide campaign to attract more people to jobs in the industry, Maietta said.
Two-thirds of consumers say they have seen prices rise in restaurants before, reports food and beverage research firm Datassentials, and 80% believe those prices will rise further. A KPMG survey found that people also expect to pay more for hotels.
What they’ll get for more money may be less service, Croes said.
People on vacation not only care about the cost, but also about maximizing their time, he said. And “if they come to Orlando for five days and they spend hours in line, they’re going to get exasperated.”
Meanwhile, scheduled renovations and updates are being pushed back, said Andrea Stokes, who leads hospitality research at JD Powers. “It will be some time before these players make all but the most basic maintenance investments,” Stokes said.
This follows other inconveniences for travelers.
“People are already having difficulty changing flights because finding someone on the phone to speak to you is going to take hours,” said Sridhar Tayur, professor of operations management at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. . “Finding rental cars is difficult. “
Much of the discontent among hospitality industry workers predates COVID, experts said. The pandemic has just exposed it.
“There is a lot of anger among the employees. They felt they were wiped out so quickly when the pandemic started, ”Croes said.
Anger at working conditions “has been a problem for some time, but the problem has been magnified and magnified,” said Jamie Baxter, CEO of Qwick, an on-demand staffing platform for restaurants, bars and hotels in 12 cities that plan to expand to Boston next year.
“You read stories about service workers who think, who needs this? Especially in the end. I make $ 7 an hour and now I don’t tip, ”said Robert Sonora, associate director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana.
Another source of help for hotels and restaurants has also been pressed: immigration.
“A lot of these behind-the-scenes roles, like dishwashers and cleaners, we rely heavily on the immigrant workforce for that,” Sonora said.
And this kind of service, long taken for granted by customers, is getting bogged down.
Ellsworth, of Gigpro, said he once worked for a chef “who told us that hospitality is like a swan gliding gracefully across water. What most people don’t realize or see is this. is that just below the waterline there are two legs that are flapping like mad for this grace.
One solution for hotel companies is to improve not only wages, but also working conditions, according to many professionals.
“We believe people want more than ever to work in a place where they are treated with respect,” said Kirchheimer, whose Park City restaurant offers health insurance and 401 (k) s. “Yes, they need money to survive, but they also want to be happy where they work and they appreciate that more than ever before. “
The places most likely to survive these problems are those “who recognize these people as a valuable asset.” They will pay them more. They’ll treat them better, ”said Bert Miller, CEO of hospitality research and recruiting firm Protis Global.
It’s also a lesson for customers, said Tayur, at Carnegie Mellon.
“There is no point in being angry with people who have shown up for work,” he said. “You are yelling at the wrong person. “
Kirchheimer recommended travelers book well in advance this winter. “And just be nice,” he said. “Being kind really overcomes anger and frustration.”
Jon Marcus can be contacted at [email protected]