Pared, an on-demand hiring platform for restaurant workers, has raised a $10 million financing round led by CRV, TechCrunch reported last week. The platform aims to help restaurants fill last-minute staff shortages, particularly in back-of-house roles like line cooks and dishwashers, but could conceivably be used for waitstaff and other front-of-house positions as well:
Restaurants go to the app and say they are looking for what the app calls a ‘Pro’ in whatever role they need, and are able to book the employee right away for the slot they have in their schedule. It might come at a slight premium over the typical hire, but restaurants are already willing to pay overtime in order to cover those gaps and keep things moving smoothly, [co-founder Dave] Lu said.
For employees, it’s a pretty similar experience — they see a job posted on the app, with a time slot, and they make themselves available for an hourly wage. The second benefit, Lu said, is that they can start to slowly make a name for themselves if they are able to prove out their skills and move up the ranks at any of those restaurants. The culinary community is a small one, he said, and it offers a lot of room to start building up a reputation as an exceptional chef or just finally get a first shot at a sauté position in the kitchen after working at the back of the house. That, too, might be part of the appeal of jumping on a service like Pared rather than just driving for Uber.
Pared is part of a growing ecosystem of platforms offering an “Uberized” approach to hiring hourly workers in various roles. By catering exclusively to restaurants and promising to help chefs build their personal brands, Pared is looking to build its own reputation as a reliable place to find quality kitchen talent on short notice.
These new platforms are emerging in retail and food service to address these industries’ unique staffing and scheduling challenges: Customer traffic is variable, but employees’ availability may not be. To address this mismatch, technological solutions are being built to help connect businesses in need of shift workers on short notice with employees willing to take those shifts, on the employees’ terms. For instance, Legion, another startup that raised $10.5 million in first-round funding last year, is using big data to better predict customer traffic and schedule the right amount of staff in advance.
Commenting on Pared’s funding round, ERE’s HR tech watcher Joel Cheesman opines that these platforms are “quickly becoming the norm for good reason”:
It works well for both parties. It’s flexible. It scales. It rewards. It incentivizes. The question comes down to who can gain the most marketshare and how quickly. Ride sharing works because there are only two main players, which makes is easy for consumers and gig workers to digest. Employment, in contrast, could be a mess, with multiple options and apps to service a very fragmented space.
On the other hand, Michael Waters argues at the Outline that bringing gig economy dynamics into the industry could harm restaurant workers, further eroding their already thin protections against abuse as well as their wages:
In 2014, the Economic Policy Institute found that the median wage for restaurant workers, including tips, sits at roughly $10 per hour — well below the $18 hourly average across other industries. 16.7 percent of restaurant workers earn below the poverty line, compared with 6.3 percent of other workers. And when it comes to benefits, restaurant workers are often forced to fend for themselves: only 14.4 had access to employer health insurance.
“A plunge into the gig economy would only compound these problems,” he worries.