"From Surplus to Scarcity: Restaurant Labor Along the Brooklyn Waterfront"
by Emily Holloway

By Emily holloway

BWRC Guest Research Fellow, 2022-2023

The effects of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry were varied and profound. The central focus of this white paper is on the question of labor: How did restaurant workers fare through the pandemic? What challenges were they already facing? How did lock-downs and closures affect them? Where are they now? During the spring and summer of 2020, unemployment claims across the city skyrocketed, and few industries were so acutely affected as food service and accommodation. But this 2020 labor surplus quickly transitioned into a 2021 labor scarcity.

The paper also provides a panoramic snapshot of the restaurant industry in Brooklyn and introduces a variety of entry points into the question of restaurant labor. By drawing these entry points together, the report seeks to elucidate the material connections that tie together urban space, economic policy, labor politics, and the uniquely vulnerable structure of restaurant services. This survey, as well as the conference for which it was written, is intended to spark further research and dialogue on the present and future conditions in one of New York (and Brooklyn’s) major economic sectors.

Commissioned for the 2023 conference “Hospitality in a Time of Plague”