The tight labor market is hampering new restaurant and supermarket openings, putting a potential check on growth in a food industry that is being reshaped by the pandemic.
Many food sellers are adding stores to capitalize on high consumer spending as Americans emerge from a year spent largely at home. But grocers and restaurants say they are struggling to hire all the workers they want for these stores. They are adding perks and bonuses to entice job seekers and in some cases delaying openings.
Grocer Earth Fare said it is offering more jobs on the spot as it seeks to hire hundreds of people at five new stores in North Carolina, Ohio and elsewhere this year. Some supermarkets are adding referral and signing bonuses.
Shake Shack Inc. said hiring is a top concern as it seeks to open as many as 40 burger restaurants this year. “It will not be easy over this next year,” said Chief Executive Officer Randy Garutti.
There were a record-high 8.1 million unfilled jobs at the end of March, according to the Labor Department, including 993,000 at restaurants and hotels and 878,000 at stores. Businesses that can’t fill jobs may close a part of a restaurant, stock shelves more slowly or serve fewer customers—accommodations that could reduce sales and, economists say, act as a brake on what otherwise is expected to be strong economic growth this year.