Closed Due to Low Wages

The Ongoing Exodus of Workers from the New York Restaurant Industry and the Looming Impact on Consumers

The New York Restaurant Industry is experiencing the worst staffing crisis in the state’s history, with serious implications for consumers’ ability to dine. All indications point to this situation worsening in 2022.

The industry was already in crisis pre-pandemic. Restaurants already constituted one of the largest and fastest-growing but still lowest-paying sectors of the New York State economy, largely due to the subminimum wage for tipped workers –– a direct legacy of slavery.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant workers have left the industry in droves. Nearly 1 million workers have exited the service sector nationwide since December 2019. New York, in particular, has witnessed the largest decline – 18 percent – in the overall restaurant workforce of any US State or territory; over 120,000 workers have left the industry in New York.

This report documents the worker exodus in New York, New York restaurant employers’ responses, and the implications for consumers this holiday season, in 2022, and beyond.

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