Restaurant Industry Faces Hiring Crisis and Extreme Rise in Food Costs 

by Doug Doyle

It has been a trying year for the restaurant industry and, throughout the pandemic, restaurants across the nation as well as many local restaurants, including Arizona-based fast-casual pizzeria Fired Pie, had to temporarily close some of their stores in Downtown Phoenix and quickly adapt to the unexpected challenges that COVID-19 presented. As things finally start to turnaround for local restaurant owners with restrictions being lifted and more people feeling comfortable to eat out again, they have been presented with new challenges, such as a hiring crisis, an increase in labor cost and an extreme rise in food costs. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant employees are down 3.1 million from expected levels. 

This problem is not unique to Fired Pie; our friends across the industry are facing these hardships. We worry about our reputation with loyal customers who will now be facing longer-than-usual wait times and feel for our hardworking employees who are being stretched thin from having to service too many customers at once without enough help.

Fired Pie is currently looking to hire 60-plus employees in all positions across our 20 stores, including managers. We have boosted ads out across all hiring platforms and are offering wages up to $15 per hour in many locations. We are unable to find employees, and I have been overseeing all our restaurants while also stepping in to help with food prep and delivery orders. 

Many in this industry have cited the fact that stimulus checks and extended unemployment could be causing part of this problem. Plus, during the pandemic when we were facing severe hardship, many of our employees went to work for big corporations like Amazon. They have found other industries to enter, which has left the restaurant industry with a shortage as we open back up.

We are not the only industry facing this issue. Distributors are also facing a driver shortage and dealing with a rise in food costs because of it. 

Our distributors are also unable to fulfill orders because they don’t have enough drivers and they have become overwhelmed with orders from restaurants now being able to operate at full capacity. We recently launched a ghost kitchen, Wow Bao, out of six of our Fired Pie locations and have plans to rapidly expand to six locations in the next few months. Wow Bao is currently being offered only through third-party delivery services Postmates, DoorDash Uber Eats and Grubhub, but there have been multiple instances where we have had to shut down deliveries because we did not have enough product due to distributor issues. 

A recent report in the Financial Times shows that global food prices have seen the biggest jump in a decade and the cost of labor, transport and shipping is expected to push prices even higher in the next few months. 

Our distributor’s price for chicken and pork have increase by 40% and, unfortunately, this means our hands are tied with taking a price increase for our restaurants. Our distributors are saying the food increase is due to a lack of labor and that supply and feed increases are a large issue. They told us they are hoping to see relief as manufacturing plants work to get back to fuller employment. 

Economists predict that there could be as many as 10 million more jobs between now and year’s end. 

As we navigate finding amazing team members to join our Fired Pie family, we have been so grateful for our community and loyal customers. We are optimistic about the future and have loved seeing more people enjoying our outdoor patios and eating in our dining rooms again as Arizona continues to recover from the past year. We encourage Arizonans to continue to support local as much as possible and have patience for their favorite restaurants as we navigate a return to normalcy. 

Doug Doyle is the owner of Fired Pie. 

Did You Know

According to Euromonitor, ghost kitchens could create a $1 trillion global market by 2030. Ghost kitchens typically have lower cost in investments because they don’t need a service team and most of them operate out of an already established restaurant’s kitchen. Many restaurants turned to implementing ghost kitchens during the pandemic to meet consumer demand for food delivery.

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