Local restaurant owners struggling to find staff

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Many restaurants are looking to hire more staff as the economy continues to edge towards reopening. However, owners are now saying they are having trouble filling the jobs they need to keep up with the growing demand.

“I’ve probably worked with over 200 restaurants at this point and with every single one of them, staffing is a huge issue. And it’s really a combination of a lot of things, not just unemployment,” says Proof Incubator owner, Mike Robinson.

Tennessee still had 84,000 fewer jobs last month than a year earlier, including 43,000 fewer jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries.

In contrast, state career centers listed 245,000 open jobs.

That’s nearly 50 percent more jobs than the 167,000 people listed as unemployed in March.

Robinson points out this is a problem he’s seeing nationwide, and that many restaurants are even offering higher wages and benefits packages.

“Most operations I know are offering between 15 and sometimes 18 dollars an hour with some benefits. Restaurants historically have never offered that much in the way of benefits,” he says.

Other restaurants are looking at different incentives to attract workers – Tupelo Honey is now offering a $600 sign-on bonus for new hires. Eve Williams with Mojo Burrito says she offers high wages and good benefits, but nothing seems to work.

“They are paid higher than a tipping wage position would pay. Typically, that’s going to be anywhere from 2 to 5 dollars an hour as a tipping wage,” says Williams.

Robinson also says that Proof Incubator led a restaurant recovery program that helped struggling restaurants navigate the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and is now looking to bring the program back.

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