CHR Report Executive Summary

Key Issues of Concern for Food-service Managers

by Cathy Enz, Ph.D.

The chief concern for food-service managers remains human resources, a set of problems that embraces many facets. Also high on managers’ list of concerns is government regulation. Those are the major findings of a study of 448 restaurant operators, senior managers, and owners completed by the Center for Hospitality Research in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association. In addition to human resources and government issues, the respondents identified key points in the categories of food safety, marketing, the economy, competitive dynamics, accounting, and operations. However, none of those were as salient as human resources.

Issues relating to human resources included benefits, compensation, employee attitudes, immigration, interpersonal conflict, loyalty and satisfaction, recruiting, and retention. Many of those issues are connected with the industry’s long-running challenge of finding and keeping willing and talented workers. Indeed, the respondents decried the industry’s image as a place where people mark time while waiting for something else to come along. Perhaps the quintessential comment came from the respondent who wondered why there seemed to be no job applicants even though unemployment rates continue high.

The respondents did not speak with one voice on such issues as compensation and training, however. While many managers fretted at the prospects of having to offer increased pay and better benefits (especially as a result of government regulation), others realistically wondered how their employees can make a living on the industry’s typical pay scales.

The respondents showed considerable antipathy to government regulations, particularly those relating to tax rates and humanresources regulations. One common theme is that the managers are convinced that regulators and legislators do not understand the industry’s distinctive challenges. While other issues paled in comparison with human resources and government regulation, the repondents were cognizant of the need to expand markets and handle food carefully, among other concerns.