NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheryl Woodard used to take her daughter and her friends out to dinner at an IHOP restaurant in Laurel, Maryland, after her dance class. But now they hardly go there because it closes too early.
“It’s a little disappointing, because it’s not as comfortable as it used to be,” said Woodard, 54. opening time. Operation.
Before the pandemic, consumers in the United States were used to instant gratification: packages and groceries delivered to their homes in less than an hour, stores that were open 24 hours a day to meet their every need. Hours were open.
But after more than two and a half years, in a world desperately seeking a return to normalcy, many employees are fed up and don’t want to go back to business as usual. They demand better hours and sometimes even quit.
As a result, many businesses still have not been able to resume the same hours of operation or the same services at a time when they are grappling with labor shortages. Others have made changes in the name of efficiency. For example, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and private employer, announced over the summer that it does not plan to return its Supercenters to the 24-hour operations they had before the pandemic.
IHOP says most of its locations are back to their pre-pandemic hours and some have even extended them. But others, like the ones Woodward frequented in Laurel, have come back.
The changes are creating a mismatch between customers, who want to shop and dine out like they did before the pandemic, and tired employees who no longer want to work those long hours, a tug-of-war that all is becoming noticeable. Busy holiday season. Christmas shopping.
“No one wins,” said Sadie Cherney, a franchise owner with three Clothes Mentor resale boutiques in South Carolina. “It’s very demoralizing to see you come up short on both sides.”
Across all industries, average workweek hours per employee were 34.4 hours in November, the same as in February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But in the case of retail business, it fell 1.6% to 30.2 hours per week during the same period. According to the most recent data, working hours at restaurants decreased similarly in October.
For its part, the National Restaurant Association’s most recent monthly survey among 4,200 restaurant operators conducted in the first days of August found that 60% of restaurants reduce hours of operation on the days they are open, while 38% close. Let’s go The days they were usually open before the pandemic. Additionally, a report published by food and beverage research firm DataEssential showed that the average US restaurant was open nearly six hours less per week in October than in 2019, a decrease of 7.5%.
Cherney said his stores returned to their pre-pandemic hours last year, but as labor shortages worsen and labor costs rise, he has struggled to maintain those same hours this year.
His Columbia store opens an hour later, but he has had to offer his employees a pay raise. At his two other stores in Greenville and Spartanburg, the hours for in-person shopping appointments have been reduced during the week, and he no longer accepts second-hand clothing from shoppers on Sundays.
Cherney said customers often complain about long waits for their second-hand deals to be processed, and that his employees are overwhelmed because they work 20% more than they should. Bottom line: Liquidity and profitability have suffered.
Mani Bhushan, owner of Taco Ocho, a taco restaurant with four locations in the Dallas area, is struggling to hire chefs at his McKinney location, slated to open in July 2021. He says that many workers cannot afford to live in this luxury suburb and have to commute from other places. Several times a week he has to close the shop early, something he’s never had to do in his 40 years in business.
Even when Bhushan is able to maintain its normal hours of operation, it has to close online orders early in the day and the service is not at par with its other locations. “I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “I’m not happy. But I just can’t fix it.”
The labor shortage is likely to remain severe next year, even as many tech companies cut back on hiring or have closed. According to the Labor Department, the economy added 263,000 jobs and the unemployment rate stood at 3.7% in November, still near its lowest level in 53 years. And although job offers in the United States fell in October compared to September, the number in the retail sector increased by 3%.
For mall operator Taubman Centers, which operates or leases 24 upscale malls in the United States and Asia, many stores are opening later than their centers to save on staff costs, said Bill Taubman, president and chief operating officer. the officer said. He said that this leads to disappointment among the customers going to the mall that the shop from which they want to shop will open.
Vicky Thai, a 27-year-old studying to be a medical assistant in West Hartford, Connecticut, says she often gets frustrated with waits at restaurants and stores. He recalled a recent experience at a restaurant in which it took a long time just to bring him water; At a local clothing store, she had to wait in line for 30 minutes to buy an item due to a shortage of staff.
But for every frustrated customer, there’s a frustrated worker. Artavia Milliam, 39, lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works as a window manager for H&M in Times Square. He says he spends more time helping with sales than upgrading mannequins because of the staff shortage.
“It can be overwhelming,” he said. “Every day I meet someone rude.”
Associated Press writer Hallelujah Hadero in New York contributed to this report.
Anne D’Innocenzio is on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio