Restaurants try to stay in touch with workers on leave


Columbia’s flagship location at Tampa, 115, is Florida’s oldest restaurant.

Colombia survived the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression and two world wars. But on March 20, it temporarily closed nine locations and put 90% of its workforce into service after Governor Ron DeSantis closed state dining halls.

“We have people who have been with us for 10, 20, 30 years, so we are doing everything we can to keep these employees; this is our first priority, “said Michael Kilgore, director of marketing. “We hope we can re-hire and reopen. “

The family business mainly uses HotSchedules, the catering and hospitality software, to stay in touch with employees. Workers on leave also receive free meals and the proceeds from any gift cards that have been sold.

Columbia Restaurant Group is just one of the companies that turned to layoffs and vacations as the coronavirus pandemic hits the US economy.

About 10% of the US workforce is unemployed due to disruption caused by the pandemic.

Putting workers on leave is usually a short-term solution for employers. Often this means that workers still have access to health care benefits, in addition to being entitled to unemployment benefits. Leave makes it easier for employers to bring workers back – as long as they haven’t moved and the business hasn’t closed permanently.

It is not known how long the officials will keep the dining rooms closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. As the number of cases increased, the timing of home care orders was extended, making the situation even more precarious and difficult to predict. But initially, while many thought the restrictions would be short-lived, restaurants viewed time off as a way to bounce back quickly when businesses started humming again.

This sentiment has been forged by years of managing a tight labor market. In recent years, the restaurant industry has had to offer higher wages and better benefits, such as tuition fees, to keep employees. Staff turnover remains high. For the combined restaurant and accommodation sector, it was 75% in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Burgerville, a regional hamburger chain based in Vancouver, Washington, says it has a lower turnover rate than the industry.

“Being a bit of a small business, a community brand, a Pacific Northwest brand, inspires employee loyalty,” said Hillary Barbour, director of corporate strategic initiatives.

In March, Burgerville went from 1,482 employees to around 450. The chain partially or totally put the majority of its workforce in transition to offer only take-out, drive-thru services and deliveries in 38 of its 41 locations.

None of the workers on leave from Burgerville told the hamburger chain that they had found a new job on Tuesday. Companies such as Amazon, CVS and Domino’s Pizza are looking to hire thousands of people to meet the growing demand for their products and services.

“We certainly know of other sectors that hire a lot, but so far we have not seen a dramatic loss of employees in our business,” said Barbour.

At 1000 North, a waterfront restaurant in Jupiter, Florida, employees on leave are contacted about once a week, primarily to help them manage unemployment benefits, according to managing partner Ira Fenton.

Fenton expects about three-quarters of hourly paid workers to return once the dining room can reopen gradually. The restaurant has the added benefit of being affiliated with a club that charges annual memberships in February, which contributes to its financial stability.

But some workers are already considering other options. Sam Diaz, 28, had worked in a restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for 4 ½ years. In mid-March, she was put on leave.

“Are you taking everything you can get at this point?” Said Diaz.

Diaz is one of 16.7 million Americans who have applied for unemployment insurance in the past three weeks, but has yet to hear from the state.

She said she sent job applications to various jobs she found in the local newspaper, but it is unclear whether these hiring notices still apply during the pandemic. She contacted a landscaper for whom she worked several summers ago.

“Honestly, my biggest prospect is to wait for the snow to melt and hopefully start gardening, and at least be able to do it until the restaurant reopens – or keep doing it for the rest of summer, “she said. .

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the Governor of Florida.


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