The restaurant industry is facing another challenge.
But this time, it’s more of a positive one.
With more vaccines, relaxed indoor dining rules, and warmer weather on the horizon, restaurants continue to serve more people, but some are having a tough time bringing staff on board.
“Staffing is unbelievably difficult right now. There are so many people who have gotten out of the industry. It’s tough finding people front of the house, back of the house. We’ve put out ads and we get a few responses, and only of those few responses even fewer show up,” said Nicholas Chabot, co-owner of The North House in Avon.
For perspective, dining out today looks a lot different than it did one year ago, when indoor dining was nonexistent.
And after lots of take-out and homemade meals, relaxed indoor dining restrictions make eating out even more of an experience for customers.
“If the waitstaff is not good, the food is no good,” said Victor Dorobantu of South Windsor, who was dining at Max Burger in West Hartford Friday.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association says before the pandemic there were about 160,000 people employed by restaurants in the state. Recent numbers estimate only about 97,000 despite the increase in customer confidence, although there are still social distance requirements required inside dining rooms to consider.
As the Max Restaurant Group is getting ready for a spring boom, like The North House, the number of applications for their open positions is down.
“Right now we’re gearing up and we’re not getting the traffic that we used to get in the past and we’re really trying to provide incentives to get more people in the door to apply,” said vice president & chief operating officer of the Max Restaurant Group Scott Smith.
“I think there are lot of jobs that people are taking advantage of, jobs that weren’t there before the pandemic.”
As an incentive, they’re offering a $1,000 sign on bonus to be paid within the first five weeks of employment.
“$1,000 to somebody who hasn’t worked in a while is a very big deal, but to me it’s a very small investment making sure that we’re getting the quality people that we want, for the quality experience guests have come to expect from us,” said Smith, who also compares it to the risk of not having enough servers, cooks, or staff on a busy night.
The North House in Avon is thinking about creating some kind of incentive too.
They hope folks will find comfort in their family owned operation.
Both restaurants say they’re taking safety seriously too, which they know may be of concern to some people.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association says these restaurants are not alone.
“The spring is coming, the summer is coming. ‘I have to get my staff back to at least close to normal numbers,’ which is great news. The problem is there’s 8,500 restaurants pre-COVID, there’s thousands of restaurants out there thinking the same thing, how can I go get talent?" said executive director Scott Dolch.
The CRA has created a job board for restaurants to post openings and for folks looking for work.
“If you want to get in this industry, this is a great opportunity for you and every door you go into in a restaurants they’re going to want to talk to you,” said Dolch.