Universal Hit by Labor Shortages, Forcing Big Changes

in Universal Studios Japan

The globe at the Universal Studios Japan entrance

Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson, Flickr

One Universal Park has been suffering huge labor shortages since reopening post-COVID-19 – and the impact is becoming more visible.

Like everything else in the world, Universal was forced to shut down its theme parks when COVID-19 started to gain strength. Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Singapore, and Universal Studios Japan closed their gates in early 2020, while Universal’s newest theme park – Universal Studios Beijing – faced recurrent closures following its grand opening in September 2021.

Entrance to Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

Today theme parks are (gradually) going back to normal. While some vestiges of COVID-19 restrictions remain, such as Disney World’s Park reservations, for the most part, the experience is similar to the pre-pandemic days of 2019.

However, one Universal Park is still dealing with the consequences. Universal Studios Japan has recently shifted one of its restaurants –  Snoopy Backlot Cafe – to semi-self-service, eliminating the need for Team Members to take Guests’ orders due to a reported staff shortage.

A mother and child eat at Snoopy Backlot Cafe in Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

The restaurant only recently reopened and now features interactive tablets through which Guests can place their own orders. Considering it minimizes spend and maximizes service for hungry Guests, this seems like a development that’s likely to hit other restaurants.

With Guests flooding back to tourist attractions faster than the Parks can rehire staff, reports suggest that 90% of destinations in Japan are suffering from a labor shortage.

Universal Studios Japan is currently in the middle of a mass hiring drive to boost its staff numbers, but in the meantime, it’s had to cut back on several pre-COVID-19 features. Sesame’s Big Drive – an attraction in which younger Guests can ride cars inspired by Sesame Street characters – closed with the rest of the Park in 2020. A common theory is that it remains closed due to the high number of Team Members needed to operate the ride versus the number of Guests it brings in.

Boy drives 'Sesame Street' car
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

With the Resort looking to further prefectures to hire new Team Members, this is hopefully a quickly solved problem. In the meantime, several attractions remain closed indefinitely at Universal Studios Japan, including Shrek’s 4-D Adventure, Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic, and Ernie’s Rubber Duckie Race.

How do you feel about more self-service options in theme parks? Let us know in the comments!

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