UPDATED 4:00 PM PT – Thursday, April 22, 2021
Restaurants all around the country have struggled to hire workers with customers flooding back as coronavirus restrictions start to subside. As dining rooms begin to reopen and customers return in mass, reports show, restaurant owners are finding it difficult to get servers, hosts and cooks to do the same.
“We’re printing the applications, setting up the interviews, having managers coming in on their days off to do the interviews,” John Lulgjuaj, the owner of Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill, said. “And 80 percent of them don’t show up.”
The lack of staff is hurting earnings even though many have more than enough customers.
“Before COVID, we were open from 11 in the morning to 3 in the morning, 7 days a week,” Slice of Life Pizzeria owner Ray Worrell said. “Right now we’re just open 11 to 11. And we have to keep it at that because we just don’t have the staff to stay open.”
Many are attributing the shortage to increased hiring across the industry, which resulted in all restaurants competing for the same decreased group of workers.
Additionally, many workers switched industries in order to have an income during the pandemic and now have no incentive to return.
“They went to [a] construction site or some other jobs, which pay more,” Texas restaurant owner Zee Aziz said.
However, other theories have been floated as well.
“There have been programs, obviously the PPP program,” Wilmington Downtown Inc. CEO Holly Childs said. “And there have been other programs that have tried to kind of fix the situation, but you kind of wonder too, are the unemployment and continuing that keeping people from applying for the jobs?”
This issue, caused in part by unmonitored federal government unemployment benefits, has led to businesses getting creative to encourage more workers to accept new positions.
“Many of our restaurants and hotels are offering some incentives and some competitive rates for folks to come back,” Lynne Hernandez, South Florida Regional Director of the Restaurant & Lodging Association, noted.
Fast food chains have encountered deficits as well. According to reports, one McDonald’s in Florida has given applicants $50 just for showing up to the interview.
Other restaurants are offering signing bonuses upwards of $2,000 for employees who stay on for 90 days. Even so, the uphill battle to fill out restaurant staff continues.