Are Hotels In Expensive Cities Feeling A Staff Squeeze As A Result Of Gentrification?

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This weekend I stayed at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and during breakfast I couldn’t help but notice how extremely short staffed the restaurant was – and it might not even be entirely the hotels fault.

I talked about this with my friend who lives in the city and he mentioned that all sorts of businesses in the San Francisco area feel in fact a staff squeeze of lower level workers (especially minimum wage) as it’s impossible to live in the city on such an income.

That is a real problem for any business which can’t afford to pay sky high wages for basic occupations and let’s face it situations like the garbage collectors who make $100k+ a year are the exception to the rule but definitely more frequent than commonly known, especially in unionized environments.

But how is a hotel positioned to react to such an employment crisis? It’s easy to say they should pay higher wages but at some point it becomes economic suicide to pay a waiter $70,000 base just so the person is able to actually come to work. However in it’s current situation the hotel (like the Westin St. Francis Oak Room) simply runs out of staff at some point.

I totally understand a potential employee here. Hotels are usually in the most central parts of the city and living there is practically impossible. Yes – there are rent controlled buildings and people with stone age contracts who live there for pennies on the dollar but these individuals are usually way past retirement age. This issue concerns the workforce aged 18-55/60 and the younger someone is the less likely the chance that he/she has an attractive lease in the center of San Francisco or New York City.

Having an hour long (or sometimes multi hour) commute just to get to your workplace that pays minimum wage plus tips in downtown? Not being able to afford coming to work anymore – that’s bone breaking and demoralizing but unfortunately the real situation in many of these hotel jobs (and other industries).

I also checked some stats at indeed.com (access here) and found this interesting data point:

The average salary for a Fine Dining Server is $81,226 per year in San Francisco, CA, which is 36% above the national average. Salary estimates are based on 8 salaries submitted anonymously to Indeed by Fine Dining Server employees, users, and collected from past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 36 months. The typical tenure for a Fine Dining Server is less than 1 year.

Would working at The Oak Room at the Westin Hotel fall under this category? Hard to say but that doesn’t shy away from the problem that the establishment is quite obviously extremely short staffed (and not exactly very motivated either which can have many reasons).

Conclusion

For hotels in highly gentrified areas such as San Francisco it would be extremely difficult to pay employees a significant wage surplus in order for them to live closer to their workplace and as a result of such bonus payments find applicants in the first place.

It’s doable though with the result that rates for said hotels would climb a lot as operating costs will be levied upon each room of the property on a nightly basis through the average daily rate (ADR).

Have you been at hotels lately where you felt they are lacking staff due to this problem?

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