Over the next decade, the restaurant industry is expected to grow tremendously. For that growth to happen, owners will need to overcome both the persistent shortage of workers and the chronically high turnover rates that have long plagued the industry.
As the number of open positions continues to grow, many remain unfilled by American workers due to an aging workforce and a lack of motivation to keep a long-term job in food services. One lesser-known avenue for drawing a talented foreign workforce is the EB-3 visa, which is a fast-track to legal employment for individuals of all skill levels.
In addition to helping restaurateurs fill vacant positions, the EB-3 visa puts foreign workers on a path to receiving their green card, which provides an added incentive for employee loyalty.
Historically, foreign workers have formed the backbone of the food, beverage and hospitality sectors. Prior to the pandemic, statistics from New American Economy showed that more than 25% of all restaurant and food service workers were foreign-born (2.3 million) and 31% of all cooks and chefs are born outside the U.S.
Nationwide, they help restaurants of all sizes continue to operate. Foreign workers are even more important to the restaurant industry as the country continues to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19. According to statistics from the National Restaurant Association, 2020 ended with $659 billion in restaurant industry sales, which is about $240 billion less than expected. By the end of 2020, the restaurant industry employed 12.5 million workers, which was 3.1 million less than expected.
The industry desperately needs to recover lost revenue, and the EB-3 visa can help employers secure a steady and committed workforce to increase revenue. As the National Restaurant Association points out, growth is expected to increase in the industry over the next decade and beyond. Across the country, restaurants are projected to create more jobs in the U.S. than the native workforce can fill.
In the next 10 years, the industry will produce about 1.8 million more positions, which is a 14% increase in the workforce. The native U.S. workforce qualified to work in the industry will increase by just 10% in the same period of time, which leaves a clear labor shortage that can be filled by foreign talent.
A survey from the National Business Research Institute shows that annual turnover rates in the food and beverage industry are quite high, with an average rate of 35%. Turnover rates in the restaurant industry are a problem for multiple reasons.
The consequences of high turnover range from lost revenue to lower levels of customer satisfaction. It costs a restaurant approximately 16% to 200% of an employee's annual salary to replace a single worker. Additionally, it takes months to train a new employee, which can impact the quality of a customer's dining experience.
Burnout and fatigue are other issues. Working in a restaurant environment is physically and mentally demanding. Long days and overtime are common. Secondly, specialized skills and extensive training are not essential for working in a restaurant. The industry has a low barrier to entry and skills are highly transferable, which allows employees to easily move between restaurants and into other industries.
The cost of employee turnover is high for businesses, as they must account for overtime payment, added workloads for remaining employees, the decline in performance and customer service that comes with regularly training new workers and the extreme possibility of needing to cut operating hours.
Nationwide, the food and beverage industry has acutely felt the impacts of the ongoing labor shortage.
The EB-3 visa, is available for workers at all skill levels and may be the industry's recipe for success. Along with helping workers land a secure living and employment situation in the U.S., the EB-3 visa may provide employers and employees with more job security while helping with long-term retention rates. Having a steady source of employment minimizes expensive labor shortages and the inconvenience of frequent recruiting, hiring and training required to onboard new employees.
Every year, Congress allocates 10,000 visas in the EB-3 green card program explicitly to help fill roles where there is not enough talent supply available. EB-3 visas permit full-time work for unskilled jobs that require less than two years of experience and training. Workers can obtain permanent residency with an EB-3 visa, provided they find an employer to sponsor them for a job and the application is approved.
The road to a permanent stay in the U.S. makes foreign workers more likely to hold onto their jobs in the restaurant industry. The job security that they have encourages them to relocate their families to the U.S., which brings added economic benefits to their communities.
Candidates for an EB-3 visa are typically highly qualified. They are often fluent in English and hold high school diplomas and college degrees. With the prospect of receiving a green card through the EB-3 program, foreign workers have a significant incentive beyond their paychecks to keep their jobs and work hard.
The EB-3 visa is available for unskilled positions even if filled by highly qualified workers, which means it can provide employment opportunities for workers at all levels. Once they land a job, foreign workers are eager to make a long-term investment in their careers, which also provides security for the employer. Research from the National Restaurant Association shows that nine out of 10 restaurant managers started their careers in entry-level positions, and restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry.
High levels of motivation among foreign workers and the opportunity for long-term personal and professional growth makes the EB-3 visa particularly attractive to restaurateurs.
The EB-3 program is a win-win solution for employers and employees. For the employer, the EB-3 program opens an additional pool of educated, reliable and English-speaking applicants who are eager to fill open positions. There are no sourcing or recruiting responsibilities or associated fees. For employees, the EB-3 green card is a viable way to obtain permanent residency and work authorization in the U.S.
Once workers are in the U.S., they have access to additional professional training and destination services through BDV.
BDV is an employment placement agency that sources foreign nationals for hard-to-fill positions in the restaurant industry. BDV fills these positions through the EB-3 program. BDV has helped employers find talented workers for nearly a decade, and they have helped foreign nationals find work across the country.
To date, BDV has helped source employees for large restaurant franchises, medium-sized businesses and small restaurants. Envoy Global uses proprietary technology and works with two top-notch law firms to create a more efficient and transparent immigration process. Envoy's platform and services empower companies to hire top talent at home or abroad.
Working together, Envoy Global and BDV can help you find dedicated and hard-working foreign talent to keep your business going.
Originally published 4 October 2021
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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