- Michael Urbach spent nearly 30 years in the restaurant industry before becoming an Uber Eats driver.
- He said he couldn’t imagine ever returning to hospitality.
- Urbach spoke to Insider’s Grace Dean about why he made the move.
This article is based on a conversation with Michael Urbach, a 51-year-old Uber Eats driver in the Los Angeles area. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I spent nearly three decades running restaurants – but left the industry during the pandemic and have no plans to return.
I am now an Uber Eats driver and have roughly the same amount of money but have much more flexible hours. It means I can spend more time with my children. And my overall quality of life is much better too.
I started as a waiter right out of high school and started managing restaurants at 23. Since then, I’ve been a General Manager at a range of full-service and quick-service restaurants, including some well-known chains.
But when the pandemic hit in March 2020, the restaurant I was managing closed, and the industry was in turmoil as restaurants laid off employees or reduced hours. No one was hiring and I couldn’t find a job.
So I started working as
driver in September 2020 following a recommendation from a friend.
It was amazing how quickly I was able to make money, even though my earnings can change drastically from week to week.
I made around $3600 in February 2020 when I worked in the restaurant industry. As an Uber Eats driver, I averaged around $1,250 per week in April 2021 and $900 per week in October 2021. (The insider looked at documentation verifying Urbach’s gross earnings. His earnings numbers at Uber Eats did not include gas costs. He was between $150 and $200 during his last job in the restaurant industry. where he worked about 30 miles from home.)
I have two young children and I share custody with their mother. I usually take care of them for a week at a time, and now I’m able to balance my schedule much more easily. When I take care of my children, I take weekends off and only work five or six hours while they are in school. And when I don’t have my children, I work every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. or so.
And my phone doesn’t ring on weekends either. I have my weekends with my children and there is nothing that distracts me from them.
In my old jobs, I was lucky if I had a week where I worked less than 45 hours. I often worked until 11 p.m. or midnight. Luckily the family could babysit my children, but otherwise babysitting would have cost me a fortune.
Some of the restaurants I worked in weren’t open as late and I was able to work better hours, but those roles often involved a pay cut.
And as a general manager in the restaurant industry, you are dedicated to your job 24 hours a day. The only stress-free days I had were Christmas Day and Thanksgiving, when restaurants usually closed.
Restaurant staffing has always been an issue in my nearly 30 years working in the industry. It’s an industry with an incredibly high turnover rate because most people don’t consider a career in it and just see it as a stepping stone.
However, the shortage of personnel has worsened considerably in recent months. The pandemic has made more hospitality staff realize that they are underpaid, work long hours, and are unsocial and deal with rude managers and customers on a daily basis.
And now people don’t want to work in the industry anymore.
Restaurants close early or for entire days, or close their dining rooms because they can’t find enough workers, and the remaining staff are overworked.
The industry is very stressful and not worth paying for. I see job offers that pay well and could bring me more income, but the level of responsibility and stress that comes with it keeps me from returning to the industry.
I believe what we are seeing happening is a change in the industry, which should have happened many years ago. We are going to see many restaurants change the way they do business or simply close their doors.
Do you have a story about the labor shortage? Email this reporter at [email protected]