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Restaurant And Bar Industry Hit Hard By 'The Great Resignation:' Why Some Have Sought Career Changes

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's been dubbed "the Great Resignation" - American's who have left their jobs in the pandemic.

The restaurant and bar industry has been hit by the Great Resignation in huge numbers, and we wanted to know why its workers are looking elsewhere.

CBS 2's Marie Saavedra talked Wednesday to a former bartender about why she got out of the biz.

Tell the Bethany Lewis of two years ago she would be working in a tech job right now, and she might not have believed you.

"Very drastically different!" Lewis said.

After 12 years bartending, she was ready to look for something different. COVID-19 made that desire even clearer.

"Especially dealing with customers during the pandemic, and like, struggling to like maintain customers with masks, and like, all this other stuff that you have to do now to be open as a bar," Lewis said.

She ran into a regular, Derek Black, who encouraged her to join his field.

"You can get a job in the software industry - and it's not a learn-to-code kind of thing," Black said.

"The training was free, and the training was on my own schedule," Lewis said.

"Having that alongside, you know, years of service industry experience goes a long way," Black continued.

Lewis turned her skills serving customers into working customer service for the software company Prodly. She is one of many who've left the hospitality industry and never looked back.

Researchers with the National Restaurant Association say employment is still 1.3 million jobs below where it was pre-pandemic, and they don't expect improvements until well into 2022.

"When people don't show up, it taxes everybody. It taxes the system," said Guido Nardini.

Nardini is looking for staff for Club Lago in River North - where the days of 60 applicants for one gig are gone.

"Eight of them respond, six of them set appointments, four of them show, and two of them come in to work," he said.

So what will it take to bring people back to the industry? Everybody agrees it is better pay and benefits - but that is something most establishments cannot do, especially when they're still trying to break even.

"I'd love to be able to tell you I know what the endpoint is, but I'm not there yet," Nardini said.

Lewis feels better that she didn't stick around to find out.

"I think people just were like, you know what, it's like time for a change," she said.

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