TULSA, Okla. — As the restaurant industry works to recover from the pandemic, it's running into a big problem.
"This is a crisis on top of a really bad crisis," said Jim Hopper, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association.
Hopper said many restaurants across the state are facing a staffing shortage.
“We used to place an ad and we would get 20 people," said Rob Aloisio, owner of Mondo's Italian Restaurant. "Now you place an ad and you get one.”
Many restaurants had to lay off employees last year when they had to close their dining rooms and move to take out only. Now that they’re open again, they’re having trouble filling positions.
“Specifically for the kitchen staff," said Michael Funk, general manager of Juniper. "It’s been hard to find qualified people who are willing to kind of do the work.”
Those openings are affecting how restaurants do business.
“We have had to kind of slow the amount of business that we take, specifically on the weekends, just to ensure that the kitchen doesn’t get overwhelmed," Funk said.
As for why it’s so difficult to hire employees? Funk said some might feel it’s still not safe to return to work or they shifted away from the restaurant industry as a result of the pandemic.
“We were shut down and we were told we couldn’t work," Funk said. "And, you know, how many of those people are just afraid to kind of get back in the industry if something like this happens again.”
Some in the restaurant business believe high unemployment benefits are another reason they are having a hard time filling open positions.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of different things," Hopper said. "But as we know, a big part of that is the extra unemployment benefits and the stimulus checks that went out.”
If you do go out to eat with your friends or family and you have a longer wait than normal, restaurants ask that you to be patient with them as they work to hire more people.
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