If you’ve followed the inner dynamics of the U.S. restaurant industry over the past few years, you’re aware there is a chronic shortage of cooks in most significant markets. The reasons are varied: long hours, backbreaking and stressful labor, and wages that don’t come close to compensating for the effort involved. Many of these conditions have been around for centuries, but previously they didn’t dim the enthusiasm of entry-level workers who dreamed of becoming the next celebrity chef.
That was before the advent of the gig economy, and the rise of ride-sharing services such as Uber.
Turnover is now skyrocketing according to industry analysts, and the labor shortage has spread to the dining room. Traditionally, servers had the opportunity to earn more than anyone in the kitchen other than the executive chef. This still holds true in trendy bistros and high-end steak houses, but it’s a different story in many chain restaurants. Check averages and tips tend to be low in those establishments, and an eight-hour shift is often preceded by setup duties and capped by side work.
Compared with that scenario, the grass is greener at employers such as Uber and Lyft. Drivers can work part-time, as much or as little as they want, and they can determine their own schedule. They get a guaranteed rate per fare, and there are often signup bonuses for new employees. If you’re antisocial and don’t want to deal with passengers, you can eliminate most human contact by restricting yourself to food deliveries. Competition for labor is increasing as a result, and restaurants are feeling the pinch, according to a recent piece in restaurantbusinessonline.com
Of course, the requirements for becoming an Uber driver are detailed. You need be at least 21 and have a driver’s license, a presentable, late-model car, up-to-date registration and insurance, and be able to pass a background check. For many restaurant positions, all you need to do is show up and be capable of doing the job. Even so, the appeal of the gig economy is strong. Being employed at many restaurants (particularly chains) means that you are part of a team. With Uber, you’re an entrepreneur, and that distinction is priceless for many.