LUBBOCK, Texas – Local restaurants are having a difficult time finding employees and some have been forced to shut down to employment and other pandemic related issues.
According to the Texas Restaurant Association, the state’s restaurant industry is experiencing a shortage of 125,000 workers and more than 9,000 restaurants have shut down this past year.
Chris Berry, President of the Lubbock Restaurant Association and managing partner at River Smith’s Chicken & Catfish, said pre-pandemic, his restaurant was able to open seven days a week. However, a shortage of employees have caused them to serve guests at six days a week.
“We’re all doing our best to facilitate the demand for everyone going back out to eat, eating out more often — which is great, it’s what we want,” said Berry. “I think we will get there, if everyone is just a little patient with us.”
Berry said the restaurant industry offers flexibility for employees to have a work life balance.
“Some folks are saying, ‘I’m not ready to go back to work 40-plus hours’ or ‘I’m not ready for this and that,’ there’s part time jobs, there are weekend jobs, daytime during the week, restaurants have always been flexible.”
Javier Castaneda with Josie’s Restaurant said they saw about a 15 percent labor shortage amid the pandemic but that they had been fortunate to find help through long time employees and relatives.
“What’s helped our business is we were built on family,” said Castaneda. “During pandemic when we were running low on the pandemic, family that had not worked for the business, came back and started doing it.”
Castaneda said restaurants could be seeing less employees because people have had a shift in mindset.
“So much of the family dynamic, so much of enjoying life and the different areas of life have become more important that the values have changed,” said Castaneda. “When the values changed, it’s no longer ‘I have to come to work for the paycheck,’ it’s ‘You have to give me a reason to come to your place.”
Michael Noel, an economics professor at Texas Tech University, said the drastic reopening of restaurant caused an immediate demand for workers and said there are two reasons some are not going back to work.
“For quite a while there, people were being paid more to stay on unemployment than to go back to work. That’s not going to encourage anyone to get back to work,” said Noel. “Secondly, if you do go back to work, you still have to deal with the COVID situation.”
Noel said the key way to help the economy is put the pandemic behind us by getting vaccinated.
“Please get your vaccine so we can get out of this problem,” said Noel, “Without [getting vaccinated], we are going to be cycling into this for a long time.”