Labor Shortages in Hospitality: Looking at Automation

May 26, 2021

The hospitality industry is currently facing a strange and unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly hard on America’s restaurants; over 110,000 businesses closed during the past year (many of them permanently), and nearly 2.5 million restaurant employees found themselves out of work.

After over a year without steady income, today’s restaurant workers should be champing at the bit to get back to their jobs. But as lockdowns and social distancing mandates end, restaurant owners are struggling to rebuild their workforce. Their reasons are vast – safety concerns, lack of childcare, desire for higher wages, or guaranteed sick pay – but the result is a massive labor shortage across America’s restaurants.

This shortage is incredibly frustrating for restaurant owners. After much hard work to build your business – and keep it afloat throughout the pandemic, why should you suffer now due to a lack of workers?

Some restaurant owners are flirting with automation to solve this labor shortage – but is this idea worth the investment? Here’s what you need to know.

Is Restaurant Automation Worth It?

In many ways, automation seems tailor-made for the restaurant industry. Automated ordering guarantees better accuracy. Robot cooks ensure consistency and speed. And a mechanical workforce means fewer employees to pay, decreasing your overhead!

However, we would be remiss in not pointing out the significant drawbacks that an automated restaurant could hold. Robotic cooks and ordering kiosks are expensive to buy and install, and they require technical maintenance to run at peak efficiency. Instead of paying a workforce of servers and cooks, you could end up with a new team of IT professionals on your payroll.

Additionally, the public still isn’t quite ready for a fully robotic restaurant. A 2020 study from Ball State University and the University of Nevada Las Vegas found that survey respondents had mixed feelings about automation in restaurants, citing a desire for the “human touch” throughout the dining experience. This is particularly notable in the aftermath of COVID-19, with so many people eager to regain the social interactions they lost during 2020.


Food pick up stations

What You Should Do

Automation, despite its definite potential, cannot become the driving force behind restaurants today. So, how can you combat the restaurant labor shortage and keep your restaurant fully staffed?


Proper training and support are the keys to building a competent workforce – and when you show you care and invest in your team, your staff is more likely to return and then stick around. Learn more about SynergySync today to check out our intuitive and affordable training system so you can build the restaurant team of your dreams.