Triangle restaurants say staffing shortage makes it difficult to keep up with jump in customer demand

Wake County News

APEX, N.C. (WNCN) — Hiring signs can be seen across the Triangle, especially for one of the hardest-hit industries of the pandemic: The food service industry.

Restaurant owners have recently said they’re struggling to find workers, specifically kitchen staff.

Many businesses are pointing to a worker shortage, but experts said there’s more to it.

At Salem Street Pub in Apex, they recently cut all lunch hours. The pub is only offering dinner four nights a week right now.

The restaurant doesn’t have enough kitchen staff to support the jump in customer demand.

“Frustrating, very frustrating. We’re doing the best we can to exhaust all avenues to get kitchen staff in here,” said Salem Street Pub co-owner Jennifer Duckart.

They’re one of many restaurants in the Triangle having trouble finding workers.

“Not only restaurant owners, but our food service providers are having trouble getting us products because it kind of trickles down the line,” said Duckart.

Experts said it comes down to several factors.

Some workers used the COVID-19 quarantine to get new work skills, some don’t feel safe returning yet, while others may have sick relatives or children home from school.

Economists said it could be a labor market shift.

“Where the skill sets that businesses want are different than what a lot of unemployed folks may have,” said economist Mike Walden.

It also often comes down to pay.

“When you hear these arguments, ‘I can’t get the workers I need,’ what gets left out is that second part, the unspoken part is, ‘at the wages I want to pay,'” said John Quinterno with Duke University.

Duckart said they’ve already raised wages at Salem Street Pub. They’re currently training a few new hires but are still actively looking for more.

She hopes to soon no longer be turning customers away and to take stress off their current employees.

“We’re hoping it’s a short-term solution but just not to stretch them so thin, because the kitchen staff we do have now we’re so grateful for, they’re doing an amazing, wonderful job,” said Duckart. “We just want to retain the staff, the good staff we have now, we don’t want them to have to go find another place because they’re overworked and worn out.”

Experts recommend evaluating how competitive wages are a business is having trouble hiring, while also being aggressive in hiring efforts and advertising.

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