Even as more restaurants scramble to find staff, unemployment claims within the food service and accommodations sector are the highest of any industry both in South Carolina and in Greenville County, data from the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce shows.
And among South Carolina restaurant operators surveyed, the majority see revenues well below normal levels, and most say staffing is one of the biggest hurdles they currently face.
Food service and accommodations made up most unemployment claims in South Carolina
South Carolina DEW data for March 2021 shows the food service and accommodations industry had the highest number of unemployment claims of any industry in the state.
In Greenville County, 603 of the 2,763 claims filed in March were in that industry. Of those, 466 claims came from those in food preparation and serving related occupations.
Statewide, 7,028 claims of 28,699 came from the food service and accommodations industry, with 5,325 claims from those in food preparation and serving occupations.
Total claims filed for the Food Preparation and Serving related sector between March 2020 – March 2021, totaled 228,169. The number reflects only those that self-identified as working in that industry.
Restaurant jobs weight heavy in nationwide claims
Total unemployment claims since March 15, 2020 is 889,112 as of May 1, 2021.
Data from the National Restaurant Association showed South Carolina restaurant operators were still struggling to regain their footing from devastating losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and were struggling to staff their restaurants.
Nationally, the restaurant and hospitality industry remained 2.5 million jobs lower than its pre-coronavirus levels, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual State of the Restaurant Industry report. And 78% of South Carolina restaurant operators said their current staffing level was lower than what it would normally be in the absence of COVID-19.
34% of South Carolina operators said they were more than 20% below normal staffing levels, according to data collected by the National Restaurant Association in early April 2021.
84% of operators said they had job openings that are difficult to fill and 87% said recruiting and retaining employees would likely be more difficult after the pandemic is over than it was before the pandemic started.
Among South Carolina restaurant operators who said they were currently below normal staffing levels, 17% said they thought it would be 7-12 months before staffing levels return to normal for their restaurant; 13% thought it would take more than a year to return to normal staffing levels; and 17% of said staffing levels would never return to normal for their restaurant.
Restaurant Revenue down
Overall, 60% of restaurant operators said their total sales volume in March 2021 was lower than it would normally be in the absence of COVID-19. Only 19% of operators reported higher-than-normal sales during the month, while 21% say their sales were close to normal in March.
The future remains uncertain for many restaurant operators. While many can operate at normal capacity now, some are having to go back to reduced hours due to lack of staff.
Read more about the challenges here.
Join Lillia on Monday, May 17, as she moderates a virtual panel discussion on the minimum wage debate and restaurant staffing shortage. You can watch the discussion at 6:30 p.m. on greenvilleonline.com, The Greenville News Facebook page or the Greenville Food & Dining Facebook group.
- Adam Hayes, executive vice president restaurants and culinary at Larkin’s Restaurants in Greenville
- Stacey Desrosiers , owner/operator of Inky’s Authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteaks & Hoagies in Easley
- David Porras, owner and executive chef of Oak Hill Cafe & Farm in Greenville
- Trevis Young, cook at Grill Marks in Greenville
- Duane Fon, server at Urban Wren
Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for the Greenville News. She loves the stories recipes tell and finds inspiration in the people behind them. When she’s not exploring local food, she can be found running, both for pleasure and to keep up with her 5-year-old twins. Reach her at [email protected], or at 864-478-5872, or on Facebook atfacebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.
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