Chinese New Year Economy|The Spring Festival encounters a "labor shortage": the "big red envelope" is not attractive enough, and there will be a shortage of staff even if the waiter's salary increases

  As the peak of the first wave of infections has passed, the catering and retail industries are also finally elated.

After researching Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangxi and other places, a reporter from China Business News found that reservations for the New Year’s Eve dinner in 2023 are very popular, and many popular restaurants are fully booked early, making it the first time in the three years of the epidemic that catering practitioners are so strong. Feel the enthusiasm of the peak consumption season.

  However, with the recovery of catering, labor has become a difficult problem during the Spring Festival holiday.

  In the face of difficulties, the government and enterprises are alleviating the "labor shortage" by increasing salaries and benefits and improving the level of industry intelligence.

  "Big red envelopes" are not enough to deal with the "crowding" during the Spring Festival

  Two days before the Spring Festival, Beijing Huitong Sihai Seafood Restaurant is still busy, but there are only 3 waiters taking care of the 9 private rooms.

This also caused some headaches for Feng Liubin, Assistant President of Huitong Universal. He told that there is a “slight shortage” of waiters during the Spring Festival this year.

In order to retain employees, this year the restaurant has promised "big red envelopes" in addition to wages and provided holidays.

  Li Mei, the founder of a medium-sized restaurant chain in Beijing, also has a headache. Before the Spring Festival holiday, some of his stores have already closed early due to lack of staff.

  "The worst restaurant, only the manager and one chef are left." Li Mei introduced that a fast food restaurant with an area of ​​150 square meters usually needs 8-12 staff to operate normally, especially the back kitchen. Although the central kitchen model has been adopted, all the products delivered to the store are semi-finished products, but 40-50 dishes still require 4-5 kitchen staff to operate.

What worries her even more is that after the year, she planned to open the store on the seventh and eighth day of the new year, but after counting the number of waiters who can arrive on time on time, the manpower is still tight during the New Year.

  "There is a labor shortage in the catering industry every year, and this year is the most serious one." The relevant person in charge of a large catering group in Beijing told reporters that from the end of December 2022, many catering brands under the group began to resume business, but the waiters The store with the most gaps is even missing half.

As a last resort, we can only let the waiters use 1 top 2, 1 top 3, and at the same time control the number of orders in the store, hoping to ensure the customer's dining experience.

  A reporter from China Business News found that most of the catering companies interviewed expressed a shortage of manpower, and even because of the shortage of manpower, many catering companies in Beijing were afraid to accept group meals during the Spring Festival.

  Liu Jianzhong, president of South Beauty, told the first financial reporter that it is very difficult to find catering workers at present. In 2022, due to the epidemic, some employees returned to their hometowns, but only a small number of employees returned to work later, so the shortage of employees is serious.

  Li Mei also said that due to the epidemic, many people have not been able to return to their hometowns to visit relatives for 2-3 years. Therefore, many waiters have asked for leave in advance to return to their hometowns this year, which has also exacerbated the problem of catering labor shortages.

  There is a huge shortage of grassroots staff

  "The catering industry is short of people, and there is a shortage of waiters than chefs." Wang Feng, the owner of a mid-range restaurant in Shanghai, told

  On January 18, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security released the ranking of the 100 most unemployed occupations in the fourth quarter of 2022.

According to the ranking, salespersons, automobile production line operators, couriers, restaurant waiters, commodity salespersons, housekeepers, cleaners, security guards, packers, and car workers are among the top ten.

  Most of the catering companies interviewed believe that the problem of catering labor shortage has not lasted for a day or two, and has intensified in the past two years, especially in first- and second-tier cities.

  Feng Liubin said that in the past two years, the difficulty of recruiting in the catering industry has been increasing, and the turnover of employees is very high. Some waiters have left after only 2 or 3 months. Such cases are not uncommon in the past two years.

  Li Mei has also been troubled by the problem of recruiting people in the past two years. She told the first financial reporter that professional skills such as chefs are not difficult to find, and it is mainly waiters who are difficult to find.

Because there is a lot of demand for waiters in chain restaurants, she has tried various methods of recruiting in the past two years, such as introducing employees, introducing friends, posting advertisements in her hometown, recruiting through labor service companies, mobilizing relatives and friends to post on group postings, etc., but the employment has always been more difficult. nervous.

  In Li Mei's view, the difficulty of catering employment is related to conceptual issues on the one hand. Now many post-90s and post-00s are not willing to work as waiters.

On the other hand, although the wages of catering waiters have risen again and again, the overall income level is still low.

  Wang Feng also thinks so.

"The lack of waiters is not entirely a matter of salary. The catering service industry is too tiring and hard, and with the efforts of the parents, those who have some conditions at home will not let their children come out to serve. After all, in the traditional concept It’s just service, which is a relatively unrespectable type of work.”

  In 2022, the China Hotel Association released the "2022 Annual Report on China's Catering Industry". It conducted research on catering and accommodation companies. The results showed that although catering companies have repeatedly raised salaries and lowered thresholds, they still face huge challenges. employment gap.

In addition to the traditional social prejudice against the service industry, the current reasons for labor shortages include the fact that people’s willingness to choose service jobs has been affected by the epidemic, and the epidemic has created many new employment opportunities and models. Not the only option.

  Especially on the issue of income, Li Mei said: "The average catering waiter can get a monthly income of 4,000 to 6,000 yuan. Although the delivery staff work very hard, they obviously earn more." In recent years, delivery staff, Some new jobs with higher income, such as couriers, have also blocked many job seekers.

  The first financial reporter saw on a number of job-seeking websites that the monthly salary of waiters recruited in first-tier cities is mostly 5,000 to 6,000 yuan, while the income of food delivery staff and riders is mostly marked as 7,000 to 10,000 yuan, and some even higher.

The reporter saw a job advertisement for a rider on a certain platform, which clearly stated that the number of orders on the site has skyrocketed, and newcomers not only get a bonus for joining the job, but the monthly income of a normal rider is 7,000 to 11,000 yuan, while a hardworking rider can earn 9,000 to 16,000 yuan. .

  There are voices from the outside world that the income of catering waiters is too low, but some catering owners also complain that when opening a restaurant, the rent cost accounts for 20% to 30% of the turnover, the labor cost is about 20%, and the cost of water, electricity, food and other consumables is 20%. To 30%, the net interest rate is not as high as expected.

Moreover, labor costs are also rising year by year.

  For example, the 2022 semi-annual report of catering stock Jiumaojiu (09922.HK) shows that its semi-annual revenue is about 1.9 billion yuan, of which the operating profit margin at the store level is about 15.1%, and the net profit margin is only 3.1%.

  In addition, the employment outlook of Generation Z has undergone many changes compared with previous generations, and the biggest feature is that they have a strong willingness to move, and waiters often work 10 to 12 hours, and their employment is relatively poor. The working environment also makes it difficult for many young people to work for a long time even if they enter the job.

According to data from the China Hotel Association, the average annual turnover rate of employees in the catering industry in 2021 will be 19.3%.

  Wen Zhihong, an expert in the chain operation industry and general manager of Hehong Consulting, analyzed to the first financial reporter that the catering industry has indeed faced more and more labor shortages in recent years, especially during the Spring Festival. Less and less in comparison.

Therefore, the recruitment of front-line employees in the catering industry or other service industries is becoming more and more tense.

  Recruitment in the service industry has even shifted to the "silver-haired people".

Previously, McDonald's published recruitment information on the China Elderly Talents Network: Recruiting retired employees, 55-60 years old, working 4-5 days a week, 4-8 hours a day, 1800 yuan / 3500 yuan / month.

  In addition, Wen Zhihong also said that in the catering industry, in terms of daily operations, in addition to the scarcity of grassroots employees such as front-line service personnel and kitchen staff, from the perspective of catering enterprise development, R&D personnel and management personnel There will also be a shortage of talents.

  What is the solution to the "labor shortage" problem?

  Xiao Feng is a waiter at Haidilao's Shanghai Changshou Road store, and his hometown is in Wuzhi County, Jiaozuo, Henan.

But this year, instead of going back to her hometown for the New Year, she took her 9-year-old son to Shanghai for the New Year. The company prepared a dormitory for Xiao Feng and her child to live in.

  There are still many employees like Xiao Feng. Regarding the sharp "labor shortage" in the short term, many companies including Haidilao have foreseen the situation of this year's Spring Festival in advance and tried every means to retain the manpower during the Spring Festival holiday.

  A reporter from China Business News learned from Haidilao that in addition to providing employee benefits, there are currently two ways to deal with labor difficulties.

The first is to strengthen the reception of group meals. Group meals will be ordered in advance and a deposit will be paid to ensure the stability of the order, and it is also convenient for the store to prepare dishes in advance to achieve fast and accurate on-site service.

The store also controls the number of reserved seats for about 30 people every day, so as to maintain the satisfaction of individual customers.

Secondly, the personnel ratio of each shift has been adjusted accordingly, and the personnel ratio for lunch will be lowered to ensure peak consumption reception in the afternoon and evening.

In addition, recruiting part-time jobs is also one of the best ways to alleviate the difficulty of employment. In addition to the recruitment initiated by the company, employees are also allowed to help with self-recruitment, diverting from their hometowns, and giving certain incentives.

  For fresh food e-commerce, the Spring Festival is also a "hurdle", because consumers have entered the stage of buying New Year's goods and New Year's Eve dinners, and the number of online and offline orders has increased sharply.

Like Haidilao, Dingdong Macai also started recruiting people in advance before the Spring Festival to prepare for the Spring Festival.

Salary incentives are also one of the methods that companies will adopt to alleviate the labor difficulties during the Spring Festival.

In addition to the three times the wages that should be enjoyed on statutory holidays, companies have additional incentives.

  Through government subsidies and Hema benefits, delivery employees can earn about 4,000 to 6,000 yuan more while staying on the job.

At present, Hema stores in Shanghai have a stable number of employees staying on duty, reaching 70% to 80% of the usual level. During the Spring Festival, the manpower demand of each store in Shanghai can be basically guaranteed.

Brother Dingdong can get three times the salary during holidays, and there are special subsidies for each order. In addition, there are incentives such as New Year’s Eve dinner subsidies and New Year’s gift boxes, so many front-line employees also voluntarily stay in other places for the New Year.

Many employees said that they stayed in Shanghai to work on New Year's Day and the Spring Festival, and returned to their hometowns after the new year.

Moreover, many employees are psychologically prepared, and some webmasters have not been home for the New Year for 3-4 years.

  However, the problem of labor shortage has always existed in the catering industry. After the hurdle of the Spring Festival, we still need to face the persistent problem of labor shortage.

  The governments of some provinces and municipalities have arranged to recruit workers in advance before the Spring Festival holiday is over, and even recruit workers across provinces.

  According to China Taizhou Net, the Spring Festival holiday is not yet over, and the cross-provincial recruitment team in Taizhou City, Zhejiang Province has embarked on a journey.

On the morning of January 26, Taizhou City itself and all counties (cities, districts) simultaneously held the 2023 inter-provincial station recruitment expedition ceremony, and each recruitment team rushed to 21 stations in 7 provinces including Yunnan, Guizhou, and Sichuan to recruit workers.

In addition, the Human Resources and Social Security Department of Fuzhou City, Fujian Province used free chartered flights to pick up the first batch of returning migrant workers from key enterprises to ensure the local employment situation.

  In recent years, in order to solve the problem of catering labor shortage, many catering companies have also begun to try some new methods, such as digital and intelligent methods, to reduce their dependence on labor; some companies also use the partnership system to retain some core employees; There are also companies that have increased the number of flexible workers and so on.

  The China Hotel Association also suggested that "flexible employment" may become a new idea for catering companies to alleviate labor tensions when the fixed employment model of catering encounters obstacles.

  However, most of the interviewed catering companies hold a wait-and-see attitude towards intelligent and flexible employment.

Even if some enterprises have a high degree of standardization and a high level of intelligence, they still cannot completely replace labor and rely on people.

  A person in charge of a catering company said that for fast food or relatively simple catering categories, intelligence and other methods can better reduce human resource costs, but in the field of mid-to-high-end catering, fine service itself is also an important part of user experience, so The role of the waiter cannot be replaced.

  Wen Zhihong believes: "Of course, whether it is suitable for intelligence is also related to the format of the business. Some catering formats have a relatively high degree of self-help for customers and are less dependent on labor. However, some formats that emphasize service and value service, the number of employees It is more difficult to reduce. Regarding the problem of labor shortage in the catering industry, intelligence, mechanization, and central kitchen are the direction of many catering enterprises. In fact, this is also a very important transformation direction for chain enterprises to become bigger and stronger. It is indeed possible to significantly reduce the demand for labor. But it is also a systematic project that requires systematic advancement, and is usually more suitable for enterprises with a certain scale."

  It is reported that some leading chain enterprises have already worked hard on intelligence.

Central kitchens, smart ordering, artificial intelligence unmanned dessert stations, and smart dining cabinets have become commonplace.

  (Wang Feng and Li Mei are pseudonyms in the text)

  China Business News Author: Jie Shuyi Luan Li