Erick Williams, the executive chef and owner of Virtue, a restaurant in South Chicago, said its staff of 22 was about half the size before the pandemic. “People don’t even show up for interviews these days,” he said.
While he can’t hire more help before business grows with the growth of outdoor dining, Mr Williams said, “all of a sudden you have to pay more overtime and you’re running the risk of exhausting your staff. “
The tight labor market has helped accelerate the changes restaurant workers have been asking for during the closures, including higher wages and better working conditions. Ms Button has raised wages in line with recommendations from One Fair Wage, an advocacy group for service workers, and pays bonuses of $ 150 to employees who refer new hires who stay on the job for more than 90 days.
The starting salary for kitchen workers at Mr. Acheson’s Atlanta restaurants is $ 14 to $ 15 an hour, he said, up from $ 12 before the pandemic. “People will walk the streets for an extra dollar – and they should,” he said.
Mike Traud, program director in the Department of Food and Hospitality Management at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said the intense competition for talent made it a good time for people to break into. Restoration. He said this is especially true in the northeast, where restaurants on the coast rent for the tourist season.
“You have more weight,” he said, “and there are more opportunities to get into higher level kitchens.”
However, many people may be reluctant to return to or return to restaurant work, given the health risks that some studies have linked to serving customers, especially indoors. Many restaurateurs also fear that resuming meals indoors too quickly could cause another spike in Covid infections. (This week, the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society program released a set of safety guidelines that it developed, in partnership with other industry groups, to keep diners and restaurant employees going. follow.)