Bay Area restaurant hiring crisis: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this’

The Bay Area restaurant industry is facing a staffing shortage during the pandemic that its leaders say is unprecedented. Dishwashers are being asked to cook. Bartenders are bussing tables. And on busy nights, left with no other choice, owners are eliminating tables in already reduced-capacity dining rooms because they do not have enough wait staff.

Labor was limited even before the pandemic due to the Bay Area’s high cost of living and the industry’s comparatively low wages. But after the first and second shutdowns, laid-off restaurant workers left the profession. They started their own businesses, entered other industries, like tech or construction, or left the Bay Area altogether.

Now, with dining rooms reopening and a looming June 15 promise to return to normalcy, restaurant owners are scrambling to attract and retain workers by cross-training, increasing wages, offering referral programs and considering health benefits packages.

PALO ALTO, CA – MAY 1: Chef Peio Calvo uses a handheld torch while putting the finishing touches on a tomahawk steak at Teleferic Barcelona restaurant in Palo Alto, Calif., on Saturday, May 1, 2021. Following multiple COVID shutdowns restaurant workers have either left the Bay Area or gone into other industries, causing owners to increase wages, cross-train or provide other incentives to lure workers. Teleferic Barcelona owner Xavi Padrosa has increased wages up to 20 percent and pulled dishwashers on to the cooking line. On busy nights he has also had to sacrifice tables if he doesn’t have enough wait staff. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

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The crisis is not limited to fine dining or the Bay Area. Restaurants around the country, including large fast-food operators, are struggling to secure employees. To lure them, Taco Bell is giving paid family leave to its store managers. Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches is offering signing bonuses for recruits.

Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and owner of two San Francisco restaurants, predicts there may be more people looking for work this fall when the government stimulus, which provides an extra $300 in federal unemployment on top of the state’s weekly stipend, is set to expire.

“That’s giving people a cushion,” she says. “It’s also causing them to think, ‘I don’t feel safe returning to work yet.’”

PALO ALTO, CA – MAY 1: Kaye Landerito, of Union City, enjoys an early dinner with her cousin Von Aguirre, of Union City, while dining at Teleferic Barcelona restaurant in Palo

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment

      

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