Guy Fieri's Surprising Stance On The Labor Shortage

Food Network heavyweight, Guy Fieri, has worked hard to undo the considerable damage the pandemic caused the restaurant industry. As Eater put it, "Guy Fieri has spent the entire pandemic working to save restaurants." To wit, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, he secured more than $20 million in donations that were used to offer $500 grants to around 20,000 members of the restaurant industry who found themselves furloughed, fired, or flat-out shut-down due to the pandemic (via CNN).

In addition, right as restaurants were ordered to close, he began producing a documentary, "Restaurant Hustle: All On The Line," which followed four chefs struggling to keep their restaurants afloat. His aim was to raise awareness and help restaurant industry members feel "supported on a global level," as one of those chefs, Antonia Lofaso, explained to Mashed during an exclusive interview. More recently, Fieri produced and hosted the streaming event, "Restaurant Reboot," during which he awarded another $300,000 in grants to 11 restauranteurs looking to get their groove back.

Most recently, Fieri went on the New York Times podcast, Sway, to talk about his ongoing worries regarding the restaurant industry. But this time, he took a surprising stance regarding the labor shortage that is ubiquitous, not just to the restaurant industry, but across the U.S.

What Fieri thinks of restaurant workers reluctant to return to work

Guy Fieri's interview with the Sway podcast started out pretty much as you would have expected, with Fieri railing against Congress's failure to address the restaurant industry's pandemic-related problems. And then host Kara Swisher brought up that "restaurants and bars are struggling to staff up to reopen fully." 

In a rather controversial analogy, that's when Guy Fieri likened unemployed restaurant workers to broccoli-averse kids. "It's really difficult to get your kids to eat a really healthy dinner and come to the dinner table hungry when they've been having snacks during the day," Fieri said, adding, "Why would you go and eat broccoli if you just got to eat Doritos?" Fieri was referring to what he perceives to be furloughed restaurant workers who have chosen to stay home and collect unemployment, rather than go out and grab available work. 

Fieri also expressed that while the restaurant industry is not always easy work, the "high values" of public-facing jobs are invaluable. "So for me, no, you can't sit on your a** and expect that it's going to come to you because it's not," Fieri said. Fieri also expressed that he worried that understaffed restaurants would eventually lead to more closures and fewer jobs. "If we don't get ahead of this and we don't fix this, we're going to get into a situation where everybody wants a job, and you can't get a job," he explained.

These statements did not sit well with everyone, with Eater arguing that extended unemployment benefits are not available for all restaurant workers, that working conditions are not always safe, and that "Fieri's empathy has hit a wall." And when Swisher pointed out that low wages offered by restaurants may be partly to blame for the reluctance of workers to return, Fieri, to his credit, did not disagree.