As more and more Americans receive some form of the COVID-19 vaccine, the country is slowly returning to normal. The pandemic saw the country go into lockdown, and some aspects of daily life are still somewhat restricted by COVID-19. Some schools are still not open fully, some businesses are still limited on hours and capacity, and millions of workers are still working from home. However, all these establishments have been given permission to gradually reopen.
Brier Creek Restaurants Struggle With Staffing
Something is still holding many companies back from getting back to business as usual: understaffing. This is hitting restaurants and service industries the hardest, with some getting desperate for workers. In Brier Creek, some restaurants are trying to entice new hires with money. The Olive Garden that opened just last year is giving out $100 bonuses to new hires. This last-ditch effort to hire more hands is crucial for when June 1 rolls around, the date restaurants and businesses can open fully.
Right next door things aren’t much better. The Longhorn in Brier Creek is the busiest in the state, but a shortage of workers is putting a toll on business as usual. “We expect [Longhorn] to go back to full capacity very soon, but if we don’t get the numbers up employee wise, we would have to stay at 75% while others have 100%,” said Tyre Basden, a manager at the Brier Creek Longhorn, in a phone interview. This would mean that while the restaurant would have plenty of open tables, there wouldn’t be enough servers to manage them.
“Our sales are fine, it’s just the unknown of knowing if who we have staffed now will stay. Because at this point we have no choice but to schedule [servers] almost everyday and in our industry you will get burned out quick,” said Basden. These shifts are no joke either. Most last 6-8 hours where restaurant workers are constantly on their feet in a hectic environment. For some, serving is a full time job, so the forty hour work week isn’t uncommon. However, for workers with second jobs, school, and families working most of the week can be taxing.
Fast Food Chains Feel The Heat
It’s not just restaurants that are strained by understaffing issues: Several fast food industries are feeling the pressure. Numerous McDonald’s restaurants across the country have been struggling to find workers. One in Florida made headlines when it announced that it would be giving out fifty dollars to people just for applying.
Here in Raleigh, the McDonald’s are having the same issue.
When Elijah Smith, a recent Leesville graduate, applied to the one off of Leesville and Strickland Road, the manager told him that they were “grossly understaffed”.
“She made it sound like they were extremely desperate for employees,” said Smith. And for him, that was the biggest turn off. “I don’t want to work at a place that’s extremely understaffed. There’s more responsibilities and more pressure put on you. In the end it’s more stressful than it’s worth. It’s not worth $9.75 an hour.”
The issue has also been a click-bait topic on Twitter lately. One such tweet pictures a Sonic drive-through with a sign taped over the screen that reads “We are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore”.
Sonic in Albuquerque says “No one wants to work anymore.” pic.twitter.com/CR128n60mM— Patrick Hayes (@KOBPatrickHayes) April 14, 2021
The comments were quick to point out Sonic’s especially low wages, with some workers only making five dollars an hour.
A National Issue
The issue isn’t just plaguing the Raleigh area either. In places like Myrtle Beach where tourism season usually generates around 7 billion dollars in revenue every year, not having enough hands is detrimental. The area gets on average 19 million tourists and vacationers every year.
That’s 19 million customers on top of these restaurants and fast food places’ local customer base.
“Nearly every single restaurant from 5-10 o’clock is going to be full and on a wait during tourist season. Right now there’s not enough kitchen staff, wait staff, or bussing staff to handle that without things going wrong or health and safety becoming an issue,” said Dylan Wilkins, via phone interview. Wilkins is a server at The Grill House, a popular restaurant in North Myrtle Beach.
Currently, every server employed at The Grill House works every day the restaurant is open. The Grill House even had to start closing on Mondays just to give their employees a second day off, on top of Sundays. Overworked servers and cut hours have been a common theme among restaurants in both Myrtle Beach and Raleigh.
So Who’s At Fault?
This leads to the ever going debate on whose at fault for this dilemma: employer or employee?
For some like Smith, the low wages offered by places like McDonalds isn’t enough incentive to work in a stressful environment. Businesses and corporations need to raise wages if they want to draw in more employees. On the other side of the argument, some say the issue is the laziness of potential workers.
“People find it more comfortable to stay home and stay on unemployment. Why come to work when you can get a steady paycheck from the comfort of your own home? Without the worry of catching anything,” said Basden.
From this viewpoint it’s the workers fault for being inactive and the government’s fault for encouraging it with extended unemployment.
In the relief bill recently signed by President Biden, the cut-off for unemployment benefits is set for September 6. This means that anyone who qualifies and signs up for unemployment will receive weekly $300 checks from the government. For employers this creates a perfect storm for chaos. People won’t need to work but will still be able to go out, so the demand won’t match up with the supply. For non-chain restaurants and businesses, this could lead to cut hours, lower wages, and for some closed doors.