After weathering the pandemic, restaurants still face staff shortages | Latin voice | Chicago News

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Despite many businesses opening after the COVID shutdown, restaurants are still struggling to fill the void of employees.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1.3 million job openings in the accommodation and food service industry, representing 11% of total job openings across all occupations nationwide.

The shortage has put a strain on current restaurant workers, reduced opening hours and even caused many restaurants to close.

“We continue to offer offers for more jobs, signing bonuses. Labor costs have increased by up to 30%,” said Sam Sanchez, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Blackbox Intelligence has indicated that wages and benefits are a top priority for hourly workers. Many restaurants have taken this initiative to increase wages.

“The $15 minimum wage is a thing of the past, it no longer exists. People come in at $18, $19, $20, $21 an hour, up to $25 an hour,” Sanchez added.

Yet Sanchez also acknowledges that it’s not just about money for future employees.

“It’s about knowing where you feel at home, where you feel comfortable,” he said.

Robert Gomez, owner of Subterranean and Beat Kitchen, took a proactive approach to bringing more staff together.

“You beg and borrow and steal,” Gomez explained.

“You go to another restaurant, you see who you hope to be a good employee and you ask them how much they are paid and [say] “I’ll give you two or three dollars more,” he said.

But Gomez says there are bigger factors at play.

“The economy of this country has always been built on the influx of immigrants throughout its history…we shut that down,” he said. “It just took us a while to feel the pinch.”

Immigration restrictions have tightened under the Trump administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, and Gomez believes we are now seeing the impact of tough immigration policies.

His suggestion is that policy makers should get together and discuss how to legalize migrants, otherwise the restaurant industry “won’t bounce back”.


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