How are St. Louis restaurants dealing with the shortage of workers?

How are St. Louis restaurants coping with the labor shortage? – Harry H., St. Louis

As the restaurant world emerges from a terrible and demanding year, the shortage of restaurant workers has become the most common problem forcing chefs and owners to get creative again. The customer locks are opening and there are currently only a few workers who have to cook, wait and tidy up. The reasons for the labor shortage are many and some say the expansion of supplementary unemployment benefits (at least until September) could also play a role.

There are several obvious solutions to the problem: pay employees higher, limit seating capacity and / or reduce working hours to match the workforce, switch to a less labor-intensive format or concept (e.g., Fast Casual ) or let the owners and employees work more hours. Larger restaurant groups hold job fairs while smaller companies use innovative recruiting methods.

For example, the owner of Salt + Smoke, Tom Schmidt, who is opening a fifth location in Ballpark Village in the next few weeks, currently needs 200 employees for his business by May 15 and is conducting a three-day marketing flash. “It works,” he reports.

We asked large and small operators to share their thoughts and possible solutions.

John Perkins, Juniper: “I was surprised so many people left the industry, but we made peace with it. We learned to work with fewer people and to focus on quality rather than quantity, which was positive. This year, customer demand will vary based on where you are, so some areas of the subway may be slower to recover. But I can’t worry about what I can’t control. Our industry is in a radical change and the staff shortage is part of it that requires creative adjustment. And because we are creative people, we will adapt. It will be fine. “

Brant Baldanza, The Tavern Kitchen & Bar, Hut, The Corner Pub & Grill: “We saw this problem back in February and then started the hiring process. As of now, we’re very fortunate to be at 85 to 90 percent of where we need to be if we’re allowed to fully open in St. Louis County. We are also fortunate to have a breakfast and an evening concept where many of our Shack employees have moonlight in our corner pubs at night. “

Travis Howard, Withdraw gastropub, Yellow belly, Lazy tiger: “This is definitely a puzzle that we couldn’t solve. At the retreat we couldn’t extend our working hours … We even had to cut our working hours because we couldn’t find enough people to work. We spend a lot more time and money on sites like Indeed and we still get no results. I posted on a community college job board and got no replies … Staffing a kitchen is always difficult, but now it’s far worse than normal and I worry that the pandemic has dragged many people out of the industry permanently . There are so many people who work in our industry temporarily while in school or on some other career path. We had a handful of people rushing their exits, saying they were done with restaurants permanently. “

Charlie Downs, Cyranos Cafe, Sugarfire Smoke House, Pinch, Boathouse in Forest Park:: “We offer employees a $ 100 transfer fee and an additional $ 200 after the person stays for 90 days. College students returning for the summer will also provide short term help. “

Gerard Craft, Niche food group: “We focus on the culture of our niche food group and let us help us hire new employees. People want to work in places where their workers have been treated well and with respect during the pandemic. At restaurants that have taken this route, more employees will return when they feel ready, and not all of them are ready right now. It will take some time. ”

Tom Schmidt, Salt + smoke:: “We realized that first and foremost we need to create a sustainable work environment and offer a career, not just a job. That’s why we’ve started offering a 401 (k) in addition to our existing health care package. We have emphasized that we are promoting from within. After six months of employment, we offer a $ 250 bonus. Employees receive a transfer fee. And we gave a bonus to every hourly and salaried employee who stayed with us over the winter as a thank you for staying with us. “

Adam Tilford, Mission Taco Joint: “We thought we should take care of our existing employees first, so we sponsored an employee recognition day where we gave $ 250 to each hourly employee. We pay employees for every new employee who stays 90 days. Additionally, without a tip, each employee now makes $ 15 an hour. Everyone else received an incremental increase. All of these things create loyalty. ”

Follow George on Twitter and Instagram, or send him an “Ask George” email at [email protected] To learn more about St. Louis Magazine, subscribe or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Comments are closed.