Where Have All the Hospitality Workers Gone?!

Hospitality workers left the industry at unprecedented rates amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. So, where did they go and why haven’t they come back?!

2020 was a disruptive year, to say the least.

The Covid-19 pandemic interrupted our everyday routines, changing the way we worked, the way we socialized, and even how we enjoyed our favorite restaurants. While the pandemic affected every industry in one way or another, it's no secret that some were hit harder than others.

As hotels experienced vacancies and restaurant doors shuttered to in-person dining, the hospitality industry experienced a significant blow to its workforce.

But with restrictions lifted and the term “lockdown” long gone from our everyday vocabulary, things have been back to normal at hospitality establishments for some time now. And yet, the industry still remains short roughly 500,000 employees from 2020 levels

So, why haven’t workers come back?!

What Hospitality Workers Want

Hospitality workers are increasingly seeking autonomy over when, where, and why they work – making consistent, reliable help hard to come by. 

According to the 2023 National Restaurant Association State of the Industry Report, only 1 in 10 operators believe that recruiting and retaining employees will be easier in 2023 than in 2022.

But that’s where gig economy apps come in. 

Gig economy apps offer a middleman approach between the business that needs help and the gig workers who want control over when they work and earn money.

Here are three things your workforce is placing value on and why they’re finding it on gig economy apps:


The federal hourly wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2009 so it’s no surprise that money is the main driver when it comes to people’s work decisions. It’s hard to find a job that fulfills a passion and that pays enough to keep the lights on. 

Whether it’s money for a downpayment on a house, money that’s going straight to paying the bills, money that’s funding a college education, or simply just some extra cash – everyone could use it. 

Through gig economy apps, workers are finding more flexible opportunities that offer competitive rates.

Workers are leveraging these apps to fund their lifestyles and the everyday costs of living – especially as inflation remains high and a recession looms. Certain gig work apps, like TaskRabbit and Rover, even enable users to set their own rates.

Working on your feet all day as a server for $7.25 an hour isn’t as appealing when one could simply book a gig to install someone’s TV in less than an hour and make just as much (or even more!).


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – workers want to decide when they work, where they work, why they work, and how much they get paid. 

Total flexibility is the name of the game, and gig economy apps are offering just that. Before committing to work, gig workers can view exactly what the gig entails, when it starts and ends, and how much they’ll make during the process. 

Whether it’s a college student looking to pick up work in between classes, a teacher that’s trying to occupy time over summer break, or a 9-5 employee that’s looking for a side hustle – people are increasingly seeking to take the reins back when it comes to their schedule. 

But they're not just seeking flexibility in their schedules -- they're seeking flexibility in where they work, what types of positions they work, and ultimately, who they work for. Gig economy apps offer just that.

Workers are drawn to the idea that they could deliver food through an app like DoorDash one day, move furniture through an app like TaskRabbit the next, and pick up some extra income dog walking through an app like Rover on the weekends.

But perhaps the best part? If they don't like the work or the people, they don't have to go back. Gig economy apps operate with no strings attached meaning there's no obligation for workers to pick up gigs that are unfulfilling or don't pay enough.

Making New Connections

Following the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, people are ready to get out there and make up for the lost time. And for many, that means meeting new people.

People spent a significant period holed up at home or working remotely for their company. Now, they’re seeking non-traditional ways to work in an effort to network and make new connections.

With gig economy apps, you don’t have to work with the same people day in and day out. Platforms, like shiftNOW, enable you to take on shift work at various hospitality businesses, meaning you can connect with locals while completing a bartending shift one day and meet new friends at your dishwashing shift the next.

As people relocate to new cities, they're turning to gig economy apps as an avenue for networking opportunities and a way to make new friends.

A New Way to Work

The way people work is changing. Thanks to gig economy platforms, they’re no longer limited to a singular job type, place of work, or even industry. And as a result, it has left hospitality businesses struggling to find high-quality, consistent help.

shiftNOW is providing the best of both worlds by allowing shift workers to get what they want out of open opportunities while bringing workers back to an industry that so desperately needs help.

Don’t let a staffing shortage affect your business – access shiftNOW’s network of high-quality shift workers by visiting app.shiftnow.com

To learn more about shiftNOW and how we’re shaking things up in the gig economy, visit www.shiftnow.com.

Request a Demo

See the shiftNOW platform in action and understand all of the benefits it has to offer your business.