Higher menu prices, tips for servers

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – It’s a good time to be a logistics specialist in New England.

They’re now earning twice as much as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic put their skills and expertise in high demand, a business contact said in a remark relayed by the Federal Reserve Bank in its latest update on economic conditions around the country. In Wednesday’s published Beige Book, which draws information from banking and business contacts, the Fed said that New England business activity “continued to grow at a modest to strong pace” through the summer with nearly all sectors of the economy reporting strong demand.

“Even in-store retail and restaurants in the region were upbeat,” the Fed said of the Boston region. Beige Book authors wrote that their contacts in the area — which covers all of New England except one Connecticut county — again reported limited labor supply and difficulties hiring for various reasons. “Some attributed this to expanded Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits but others said that hiring was equally difficult for high wage workers and workers in states which had discontinued expanded UI,” the report said.

The Beige Book update said that some contacts reported bidding wars to attract qualified workers and that some businesses “were lowering their required qualifications and experience for job candidates and offering on-the-job training and opportunities for upward mobility.”

Though the availability of UI benefits was an oft-cited reason for the labor problems, the Fed highlighted that some other contacts said that the lack of child care options was the primary obstacle. In the restaurant industry, contacts reported strong summer sales but also mentioned the disruption of reimposed COVID restrictions.

“Menu prices have continued to rise since the spring as food, delivery, and labor costs have all continued to increase in recent months,” the Fed said. “Higher menu costs have resulted in modestly larger tips for front of the house staff, and efforts have been made to increase wages across restaurants to attract more workers.”

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