The Restaurant Gig Economy
The gig is up! You’ve likely heard of the gig economy for a while, and have probably interacted with it in some way. Intuit predicted that by 2020, 7.6 million Americans would be working as providers in an on-demand economy. We’ve increasingly seen consumer demand for instant gratification and a gig economy that allows employee and manager flexibility. But the gig economy touches many industries. For our purposes: what is the restaurant gig economy and how does it relate to the phenomenon at large?
What is this “Gig” Economy?
The gig economy refers to “short-term, contractual or freelance work,” and not permanent jobs. Through the gig economy, individual pieces of work or “gigs” are pushed out, in parts, on mobile and web platforms. You may have heard gig economy roles called “freelancers,” “independent contractors,” “temps,” and “consultants.”
Interestingly enough, the roots of the gig economy stem from musical subcultures. Jazz musicians regularly worked in various clubs during the 1900s, picking up these “gigs” to earn an income. World War II led to companies employing temporary workers to fill the workforce gap left by soldiers. By the 1990s, 10 percent of the United States’ workforce worked as contractors, and the demand for flexible, non-permanent workers grew.
When you hear the words “gig economy,” what comes to mind? Individuals with whom you’ve likely interacted daily, like Uber or Lyft drivers, Airbnb operators, artists, or TaskRabbit workers, are considered pieces of the gig economy. Those companies mentioned earlier allow many people to pick up gigs. Think about seasonal retail workers that stores hire during the holidays. These workers qualify as participants in the gig economy.
Due to the rise of the “on-demand culture” powered by consumer ability to order ahead, create online reservations, and add themselves to virtual waitlists, employees choose a work structure that allows for more control over their career paths, work-life balance, and income.
When it comes to stability, people are taking on multiple jobs to create multiple income sources. There are two primary reasons people choose to jump into freelance work: extra earning potential and more flexibility. In 2019, 16% of US businesses employed independent contractors. This increase is 2.2 percentage points up from 2010, as reported by ADP. When it comes to the impact COVID has had on the gig economy, due to the demand for jobs because of being unemployed, gigs are becoming harder to find as gig workers are competing with jobless Americans.
The Restaurant Gig Economy
You may have seen restaurants participating in the gig economy, whether you knew it or not. Restaurants have hired contractors for different needs, including bartenders, delivery people, and servers. Restaurants used these workers to fill a need, whether it’s a gap in the schedule due to an absence, or no-show, or when a shift becomes busier than expected. Gig workers were able to fill the needs as they came up.
Looking to the Future
The gig economy doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and COVID may be a driving force to its uptick. By 2023, it’s projected that over half or 52% of the workforce in the United States will have been independent contractors. Forbes cites an UpWork report that, statistically, independent worker numbers are growing three times faster than the total working population in the United States. Across the board, various demographics report that the gig economy is appealing because they can “set their own schedules,” “choose the jobs they want,” and have a better work-life balance. On the other hand, gig workers appeal to businesses because they don’t have to worry about providing office space or full-time benefits.
The Restaurant Gig Economy — Concluded
If you’re looking for a straight answer to participate more in the gig economy as a business, we don’t necessarily have one. The gig economy workforce will continue to grow, primarily through the progression of the pandemic. Restaurants may encounter more gig economy participants because they’re flexible in choosing their shifts and filling the gap during peak seasons. With technology and increasing concerns about continued access to remote work and more flexibility, people are gaining entry into the world that started with “side hustles”.
How has the pandemic altered your course? Click the link below for our page containing helpful restaurant resources for the COVID-19 outbreak.
About the Author
Devyn Nance is the Marketing Coordinator at QSR Automations. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and from Loyola University Chicago with a master’s degree in Global Strategic Communication. She considers herself an (amateur) profiler – trained solely from watching every episode of Criminal Minds. Outside of work, Devyn loves to shop, travel, hang out with friends and family, read, and watch shows on various streaming platforms.