Sep 23, 2021 - Business

Stay-at-home parents could fill the restaurant void, industry group says

Illustration of a baby bottle behind a salt and pepper shaker.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Iowa restaurants continue to struggle with worker shortages, but attracting stay-at-home parents into the industry could give a helping hand to local businesses, according to the Iowa Restaurant Association.

Why it matters: Despite growing customer demand, restaurants aren't able to operate at their full capacity or revenue potential because the staffing isn't there.

  • 50% of Iowa restaurants surveyed by the industry group are reducing hours, and 28% are closing an extra day per week.

What's happening: While worker shortages are affecting businesses across the board, the hospitality industry is still feeling the impact of pandemic furloughs and closures.

  • Many who left ended up finding other work or more consistent hours, like at warehouses, local experts have said.

What they're saying: Lack of child care is a major factor behind why some parents may stay home, but restaurants can offer flexibility that other industries can't, according to the association.

Kelly Vincent is a mom with a more than 20-year restaurant career. She's worked as a server at Bubba in Des Moines for four years.

  • The appeal of her job are the "mom hours," aka lunch shifts from 10am to 3pm, she said. It allows her to drop her children off at school and pick them back up.
  • Shift flexibility is also key. She can work nights while her husband is home or pick up extra hours on weekends if finances are tight.

The bottom line: Vincent said the hours, health care options, paid time off and fair wages are what keep her at Bubba. If restaurants can offer more benefits, they're more likely to retain workers.

  • "It's worked well with having my two little girls," Vincent said.

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