How COVID impacted the restaurant industry

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A new report says the restaurant industry is expected to add as many as 300,000 jobs. However, it is already a struggle to find workers. Steve Chucri, President and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, discusses the outlook for restaurants in Arizona and the industry.

It is looking great for the restaurant industry, according to Chucri. There has been a total of about 23 billion dollars in restaurant sales this year in Arizona.

When asked if employment has rallied after the COVID-19 pandemic, Chucri said, “I would equate it with driving a car with a spare tire; it’s functional but not optimal.”

“We’re doing better than other states in the country as far as where we’ve come since COVID, however we’re still falling short with new restaurants that have opened,” Chucri said.

While they’re increasing the number of employees they have working, it is important to remember that new restaurants have opened post-COVID. Chucri said there are more jobs to fill, and it has been a challenge.

The report shows that employees who are hired aren’t staying as long as they used to. According to Chucri, many restaurants take their employees for granted, but post COVID, they have a new level of appreciation for each individual. Work environments have changed because of COVID too.

“They changed for the better. I will tell you this: as someone who has been a part of this industry for over 20 years, our employees are our family. But in some cases, some restaurants took their employees for granted,” Chucri said. But now, it’s easy to see the value employees bring to the restaurants and workforce.

Take-out sales have also skyrocketed since COVID.

“Your total sales for to-go were about 5% pre-COVID. During COVID and post-COVID, they’ve risen to 25%,” Chucri said, with sales staying at that rate.

Steve Chucri, President and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association

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