Restaurants struggle to hire as business picks up

Published: May. 25, 2021 at 11:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - While foot traffic is picking up at Richmond area bars and restaurants, bouncing back from this pandemic will be twofold, finding both customers and employees.

“The pressure is on now. We were targeting the middle of June to be fully staffed up and ready to go,” Chad Sumner said. “I’d say we are operating between 80 and 85 percent of our staff.”

Sumner is the bar manager at Siné Irish Pub in Richmond. He says the restaurant has been on a hiring blitz so that it’s ready for when the state opens up completely, but Sumner says securing new hires hasn’t been easy.

“It definitely has been a challenge finding qualified people to fill the positions we’ve been looking for,” Sumner said. “It’s the whole industry within the city, it took a while people because didn’t seem like they wanted to come back right away.”

Sumner says there are some who have gotten out of the restaurant business since the pandemic began. Other restaurant owners across Richmond have said their jobs are staying open because people are still receiving unemployment benefits.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that the unemployment is displacing a hire. I think the ability for a person to earn a living at their craft has been the challenge and you want to be sure that if you return, you’re going to get 40 hours,” hospitality consultant Michael Byrne said.

Byrne is a lifelong business owner who has been consulting for restaurants and bars for the past five years. He says while there are many theories as to why people aren’t rushing to fill those jobs, it all boils down to stability.

“Most people don’t understand because they’ve never worked in the restaurant industry, how many different things feed into making a restaurant successful or not,” Byrne said. “So many people have not returned to the industry and they’re waiting to see how it plays out. They want stability, just like anybody else.”

Byrne says unemployment could be a factor preventing faster recovery for some bars and restaurants, but says each business has been affected differently by the pandemic based on its location and the products they serve.

“Some restaurants have made more money doing less and some haven’t been able to recover in order to make enough to survive and those are the two camps.”

Byrne says the challenge for bars and restaurants now is to reassess their business models in order to stay afloat while offering the most to new hires.

“The challenge will continue to be how restaurants adapt to changing environment,” Byrne said.

“We feel like we’re going to be ready to be able to accommodate the guests as they come back to full capacity,” Sumner said.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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