PHILADELPHIA, PA – As more people get vaccinated and cities slowly reopen, hundreds of jobs have returned to restaurants. But many restaurateurs say fewer people are applying for these positions.
“Our turnover is closer to 2019. So it’s increasing. But the staff just aren’t there, ”said Michelle Lavigne, vice president of operations at Bar Bombón.
Bar Bombón, a restaurant in downtown Philadelphia, has returned to the pre-pandemic crowds. But their staff size is down 25% from what it needs to be to operate at full capacity.
“We are severely understaffed. We had to remove tables or just say unfortunately we are not seated right now, ”Lavigne said.
Owner Nicole Marquis manages eight other restaurants in Washington DC, Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.
“Well, it was definitely a year of extreme challenges, one after the other. And our last challenge is hiring and recruiting, ”said Marquis.
The restaurateur noted that in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is a sign of exit from the industry.
“It’s really understandable. Our employees, when we made the layoffs, had to decide, “What are we going to do next? “And they had to look at industries that weren’t closed during the pandemic,” Marquis said.
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Some workers have to stay home with their children while attending distance school due to COVID-19, Marquis said.
“It’s terribly ironic that we’ve worked so hard in 2020 to bring back sales, and now we have our new challenge which is recruiting,” said Marquis.
In Wilmington, Delaware, Gina Cipolloni has been a server at Harry’s Savoy Grill for 13 years.
“I am a single mother of two children and this job allows me to send my children to a Catholic school. I’m able to pay their tuition, it’s a flexible schedule, so if they’ve left school, I can take off ”. said Cipolloni.
In addition to the waiting tables, Cipolloni also creates the staff schedule every week.
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“Anywhere from a bus to a waiter, it’s quite difficult to meet the demands of the restaurant’s demand,” Cipolloni said.
According to the National Restaurant Association, the number of restaurant jobs has increased every month this year. However, the staffing is 20% lower than it was a year ago.
“As we are losing people, there are just no people to fill the places. We just don’t have that many applicants, ”said Xavier Teixido, owner of Harry’s Savoy Grill.
The restaurant, which has been owned by Texido since 1993, has had a “now hired” sign outside the restaurant for months.
“It’s difficult because you don’t want to overload your staff either. And sometimes you just have to do it, “Cipolloni said” just to get through the week.
Many restaurants use “old-fashioned” means as well as social media to attract potential employees. “We have signs on the window, we have signs on the outside. We also use pop-up windows on the website. So we’re definitely engaging people on social media, ”said Marquis.
Other restaurants even use cash in hopes of attracting new employees. This week, the Walnut Street Café in Philadelphia announced hiring bonuses of $ 250 for hourly positions.