Iowa’s Hospitality Industry Hits the Alarm Bell on Worker Shortage

Survey Shows Lack of Workforce Impacting Future Plans for 85% of State’s Restaurants

May 17, 2021 (DES MOINES, IA)- 92% of Iowa’s restaurants are actively seeking to immediately add staff according to a survey conducted this month by the Iowa Restaurant Association. A deeper dive into the data found that that more than half of the state’s restaurants are operating 20+ % below needed staffing levels. The survey also found 70% of Iowa’s hospitality operators cite the inability to find qualified workforce as the number one threat to their potential recovery from the impact of COVID-19 and 85% say the lack of workforce will impact future business plans. The industry lost an estimated $1.45 Billion due to COVID-related mitigation mandates. 

“The data couldn’t be clearer,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “We need people; and we need them now. Our ability to recover depends on it.”

Operators cited multiple reasons for the current shortage of workers including people opting to stay on enhanced unemployment (90%), however nearly 40% say that many of their talented workers took positions in other industries. Top reasons cited also included that school and childcare issues (15%), as well as fear of returning to work (20%) as contributing factors to the lack of workers. To cope with the worker shortage restaurants indicated that are taking one or more steps to try to keep up with customer demands.  

  • 87% of restaurants say they are stretching existing staff—giving team members more hours and more duties. Some are being forced to take additional operational steps including:
  • 52% are not operating at capacity, making fewer seats and tables available for customers.
  • 35% are closing the restaurant for one or more days per week that they would normally operate if they had enough staff.
  • 20% are dropping breakfast or lunch service.
  • 19% are rotating staff between multiple locations.

To help attract workers to Iowa’s restaurant and hospitality industry, the Iowa Restaurant Association has launched a “Be Part of Our Comeback” campaign which will promote opportunities in the restaurant industry, as well as provide an industry specific job board. 

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