As Dinner Returns, Restaurants Face a New Hurdle: Finding Workers

MIAMI – All day longIs a city the coffee shop And the restaurant, started the year on a high note. January was the busiest month since the onset of the epidemic. “It was like turning on a light switch,” said Camilla Ramos, an owner.

The business was so good, it pushed All Day employees to a near-point, Ms. Ramos said. When she had trouble hiring reinforcements to help with increased traffic, she was forced to make a counter-productive decision: she closed All Day for the month of February.

“I couldn’t get people to hire me,” he said last weekend outside his cafe, which reopened on March 1. “I just needed some time to reset the operation.”

Ms. Ramos explores what owners of full-service restaurants nationwide are now experiencing: a continuous Worker shortage In the face of business turmoil, mild weather for outdoor dining spreads across the country, as well as decreased Kovid restrictions that came early in South Florida and are now being felt throughout the US

“I don’t think anything like this ever happened,” said Katie Button, Chef and co-owner of two restaurants in Asheville, NC, “Everyone in the world is hiring at the same time.”

A staff shortage seems to be competitive in a business that has been devastated by an epidemic, with mass layoffs and an alarming number Permanent Closure. It comes just as Restaurant revitalization fundThe $ 28.6 billion grant program for small restaurants, bars and restaurant groups is set to take applications, and for one year feel free from vaccines as a home-grown meal.

Restaurant employment Grew every month This year, according to the National Restaurant Association, but in February, staffing levels at full-service restaurants were still 20 percent – or 1.1 million jobs – lower than a year earlier. (Employment in quick-service and fast-casual restaurants was down by just 6 percent in the same period.)

Owners and chefs of full-service restaurants say the main reason is the lack of staffing, simply because there are many more job openings than available workers.

Hugh achesonShe, Ga., With restaurants in Atlanta and Athens, is in charge of food and drink at the new Hotel Effie Sandstein, In Miramar Beach, Fla. At the opening in February, he said, an online job site advertised more than 300 line cook openings in the same area. “And those listings were done for, like, two months,” he said.

The activist is also inspiring pinch social media memes. Chef jeremy fox Recently advertised Job openings at three of his restaurants in Santa Monica, California, on Instagram. The advertisement featured a picture of Mr. Fox in an empty restaurant under the headline: “When you are hiring cooks, but this is a very good restaurant.”

Madison McCarlane, All Day’s new executive chef, joked that she considered posting on the dating site Tinder: “responsible cooking, demanding the same.”

But intense competition for workers is only one reason for worker shortage.

Restaurateurs say that many former employees are choosing not to re-enter the work force at a time when they can collect unemployment benefits at or above.

“You have some cases where not working is more profitable than working, and you don’t really want to hold people for as long as possible,” Mr. Fox said.

Others have left the restaurant business for better-paying jobs in other areas, shrinking the pool of potential applicants. 34-year-old Greg Wright said he decided not to return to his job as a cook Marlow and Sons, In Brooklyn, soon after the closing of last March. He has since moved to the Bay Area and began training to become a computer programmer.

“For me, it was, ‘Do I just sit here arm-in-arm and hope that I will have a job in the next two years, three years, five years?” “The answer was, ‘Absolutely not.”

Liz Murray, director of human resources and communications for the company owned by Marlow & Sons, said employees left the company for several reasons. Some moved from New York to their hometowns – and stayed after getting a job at the restaurant there.

A spokesperson for Hospitality, The company that operates the chef Tom ColicchioK restaurants said that 80 to 85 percent of the group’s kitchen workers have moved out of New York City.

Sin Zhi is the Chief Financial Officer and Managing Partner of a company that operates 13 locations of Sichuan restaurants Chengdu flavor And MianIn California, Nevada, Washington, Texas, and Hawaii. In most of those states, he said, government support and competition from companies such as Amazon make it very difficult for talent to “compete” without salaries and wage levels that its businesses cannot support.

“We can also close a shop or two, just because we don’t have employees,” Mr. Zhi said. “We want to be open, and even expand.”

Eric Williams, Executive Chef and Owner a quality, A Southern restaurant in Chicago, said their staff of 22 is about half the size of the pre-epidemic. “People aren’t even showing up for interviews these days,” he said.

If he can’t get more help before the business grows with the growth of outside food, Mr. Williams said, “Suddenly, you had to pay more overtime, and you’re risking burning your employees.”

The tight job market has helped in the rapid changes that restaurant employees pushed during the shutdown, including higher salaries and better working conditions. Ms. Button has raised the wages according to the recommendations made One fair veg, An advocacy group for service workers, and is offering a $ 150 bonus to employees who refer to new hires who stay on the job for more than 90 days.

The starting salary for kitchen staff at Mr. Echsen’s Atlanta restaurant is $ 14 to $ 15 per hour, he said, from $ 12 before the epidemic. “People will walk down the street for a buck – and they should,” he said.

Mike Trude, Program Director Food and Hospitality Management Department At Drexel University in Philadelphia, intense competition for talent said that this is an opportune time for people to break into the restaurant business. He said this is especially true in the Northeast, where restaurants on the coast are hired for the tourist season.

“You have more profit,” he said, “and there are more opportunities to get into the upper-level kitchen.”

However, many people may be reluctant to engage in or return to restaurant work, given the health risks Some studies Serving customers are connected, especially indoors. Many restaurateurs are also concerned that resuming indoor dining could lead to another spike in Kovid infections. (This week, the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program released a set safety instruction It developed in partnership with other industry groups to continue following for dinner and restaurant employees.)

Some restaurants such as All Day in Miami are still serving only outdoors, even due to concerns about indoor dining restrictions Unrelated staff And customers – and because opening more tables puts more stress on already overstretched employees.

In Miami, the struggle to find restaurant workers is unlikely to end soon. New York restaurant operators, such as Major food groups, Where are rushing to open places in South Florida Population is booming.

MachialinaA popular Italian restaurant in Miami Beach had to close for a day in January due to staff shortage. the chef Niven Patel Coral Gables owns part of two restaurants, and is opening another one this summer. He said, “It is very important to prioritize the number 1 every week in our meeting. ”

Ms Ramos said she is happy that market forces inspired her to make changes to her All Day Cafe to create a better workplace. “Before it was like that, we needed to pay what we could afford,” she said. “Like it now, we need to charge what we need.”

Nevertheless, with a higher salary, Ms. Ramos, 32, has begun searching for potential job applicants among her clients. A new hirer is a former real estate agent. Was another day trader.

“I usually require three years of experience with zero exceptions,” Ms. Ramos said. “Now I’m like, ‘You’ve been here a couple of times? I’ll train you.'”

Tejal Rao and Rachel Wharton contributed reporting.

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