Local restaurants have lost workers during the pandemic, now scrambling to find new workers as businesses reopen
MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – A family affair for Steve Lauck, his wife and two sons at Vivolo Express in Maryland Heights. The pandemic has placed a new burden on restaurant and business owners around the world: finding help.
“Having a family business, a Mom and Pop type situation, we’re lucky because we always have at least four employees,” said Lauck, owner of Vivolo Express. “If our two sons weren’t working for us, I don’t know what we would do.”
A sign of modern times.
As more people get vaccinated and return to their favorite stops, the key word for this pandemic is patience.
“A lot of these guys are working longer hours and more shifts,” said George Mahe, dining room editor for St. Louis Magazine. “A lot of them organize career fairs and give all kinds of bonuses after 60 or 90 days. They give bonuses to their existing employees for their friends to come in and give them bonuses back if their friends come in, so it’s all over the place.
On the other side of Saint-Louis, “Help Wanted” signs are not only found in restaurant windows, but in several areas.
George Mahe has studied the problem many face as restaurants begin to reopen in time for the summer.
In the Central West End, 12 restaurants, along with the Chase Park Plaza, are hosting a Hospitality Industry Career Fair on Monday, May 3 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chase’s Khorassan Ballroom.
“Business is strong,” said Stephen Gontram, owner of Five Star Burgers. “Even at 50% and it gets stronger and stronger. I don’t mean to say that I don’t look forward to 100% days, I am. But right now we’re looking for people, because the staff we had, which is the same as we had a month or two ago, we’re tired and working long hours. As business grows we desperately need more people to serve, take the bus, host, cook, everything. “
In the meantime, as more people get vaccinated and capacity levels continue to change in restaurants, with simplified menus, hours, patience will serve you well.
“But the only good thing I’ll say is if you want to look on the positive side, then business is coming back,” Lauck said. “Hopefully the workers too.”
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