Restaurants struggle to find employees despite drop in COVID cases

Restaurants struggle to find employees despite drop in COVID cases

With the decline in Covid cases, many restaurants are reopening at full capacity. Still, owners say they are struggling to hire new staff to keep up with demand.

FOX Business spoke to several restaurateurs across the country who said applicants, drawn by the lure of unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, have eased during the pandemic and it is unclear whether this trend will continue.

Tom Sacco is the CEO of Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream, a chain based in Bettendorf, Iowa – or as he calls it, “The Heart of America”.

FILE: Patrons sit outside for dinner separated by plastic dividers with national flags at Mel’s Drive-in restaurant in West Hollywood, California. (AP)

“I can’t beg to borrow or steal from an employee. It’s so hard to hire. And I’m in Iowa, ”Sacco told Fox Business. “I’m not in New York or Los Angeles, where there are millions and millions of people.”


Sacco said the company had to invest more money in advertising just to get people to come and apply. He estimates that on average, about 50% of the employees the company has hired are not working.

Eric Slaymaker, CEO and founder of Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, says his company is in “jobs crisis.”

“It has been more and more difficult to hold people back,” Slaymaker said. “I’m just amazed that it’s so difficult to find candidates right now in the markets in which we operate. We are struggling to do all we can to be able to staff our restaurants. ”

Slaymaker said his restaurants have had some success in retaining employees, but securing candidates has been the biggest challenge – something not unique to his business.

“Everyone we talk to in our markets faces the same thing,” Slaymaker told Fox Business.

Slaymaker said he hopes that as the pandemic subsides, restaurants begin to see a reversal in this trend.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that as things get safer and the vaccine rolls out, we hope it will attract more workers who feel safe and want to get out and are out there. ‘comfortable to work,’ Slaymaker said.

Diners eat in secluded dining rooms outside Townhouse Restaurant on Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Birmingham, Michigan. (AP)

Carl Howard, the CEO of Fazoli’s, an Italian restaurant chain based in Lexington, Ky., Blamed the lack of candidates on the unintended consequences of government decisions. He noted that in many states, unemployment benefits can sometimes exceed the minimum wage.

“It’s way above what we can really afford to offer. Where is the incentive to return to work? Howard said. “If I was 20 and didn’t really have a career path, I would stay home and make $ 18.80 an hour playing PlayStation until four in the morning.”


Howard predicted this trend will continue until stimulus checks dry up and force more people to return to work.

“I think we’ve over-stimulated to the point that it’s causing problems,” he said.

Kyle Frederick, the COO of Bellagreen and Original ChopShop – both based in Dallas, said the challenge of hiring and retaining qualified people has become a “saying” for the restaurant industry, especially in the midst of the current pandemic.

“Back in the days of the dunning checks, it seemed like you were seeing either turnover or less applicant flow,” Frederick said. “In the last four weeks that a stimulus check has been handed out to many families, it may have been more money than what they were even making at work. So they see it as an opportunity not to work or to do something different. ”


US lawmakers passed a third round of stimulus checks in mid-March. The measure included stimulus checks of $ 1,400 for many Americans, extended unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week until September 6, and an extension of the child tax credit.


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