Eating places in southern Indiana are dealing with a scarcity of employees information

SOUTH – Many restaurants are struggling to find enough workers making it difficult to keep up as they see increased business this spring.

Restaurants across southern Indiana are facing challenges due to staff shortages, and vacancies are often left unfilled.

Portage , a riverside restaurant in Jeffersonville, announced last Friday that it was temporarily closing due to staff shortages.

Owner Dallas McGarity said the restaurant had been trying to hire more staff since the beginning of the year, and even when they did interviews, applicants typically wouldn’t show up.

“One day there were 10 interviews scheduled, but only one person showed up,” he said. “That’s crazy.”

McGarity said sales tripled from February to March and got to the point where employees could no longer keep up. There are currently only four employees at Portage House.

He said the restaurant is now receiving applications “like crazy” as people are realizing they are hiring, but he hadn’t hired anyone until Thursday morning.

He said he hoped to reopen Portage House soon but hadn’t set a date.

Max Bloom, owner of Parlor Pizza, said that between the New Albany and Jeffersonville locations, an additional 20 people could work on the front and back of the house.

“A lot of restaurants are reopening and people are getting out now as is slowly being put in the rearview mirror,” he said. “Restaurants are very busy and very understaffed.”

They need about 12 more people in Jeffersonville and they need about eight more in New Albany, he said.

Staffing has become a bigger issue as business picks up in warmer weather and there has been a fight at the New Albany site for 90 days, he said.

Parlor receives some applications, but Bloom also notes that no people show up for interviews.

“You take the time to call a candidate and schedule an interview and he doesn’t show up,” he said. “That happens more than once than not.”

The staff at both parlor restaurants “are working their bums off now,” said Bloom.

“You don’t want your people to work to the bone, but unfortunately they are,” he said.

Beau Kerley, owner of Tuckers American Favorites in New Albany and 812 Pizza Company in Georgetown, said he needed staff at both restaurants.

Tucker’s has 11 servers, but they take about 21, and 812 Pizza takes four or five servers, but only one full-time and one part-time.

According to Kerley, 812 Pizza offers incentives such as a $ 300 bonus for full-time servers that are turned on for at least a month.

Last week, 812 Pizza had to switch to take away only because of insufficient servers, he said, and the restaurant will likely have to do takeout again this Friday and Saturday.

Both restaurants have been busier lately than they were before the pandemic, Kerley said.

Starting employees on wages 20% higher than pre-pandemic to stay competitive, he notes that many companies have increased their starting wages.

“We used to start people at $ 11 an hour to see if they were good at the kitchen or not, and now we’re starting at $ 13, $ 14 an hour, and someone with good experience can earn more, “he said.

If these issues persist, Kerley is considering moving to a self-service kiosk at 812 Pizza at some point.

“If this is to be a long-term problem, we need to change our business model,” he said.

Kerley also plans to reopen full-service at The Standard Plate & Pour, a downtown New Albany restaurant that closed during the shutdown before reopening for limited only.

He was hoping to reopen the restaurant in early April, but plans are on hold until the other restaurants are full.

McGarity said he believes part of the reason the staff shortage is because people are leaving the restaurant industry to pursue jobs in other areas during the pandemic.

“I think a lot of people have decided that finding something with regular hours is more stable,” he said.

Some people may also feel unsafe to return to work in the services industry during the pandemic, McGarity said.

According to Bloom, the staff shortage so many restaurants are facing is likely related to a “perfect storm” of factors.

He believes that people who continue to receive unemployment benefits could be contributing to staff shortages, but he believes a bigger factor is the trend for people to be leaving the restaurant business.

“It’s always been a challenge to fill, but prior to the pandemic, we were screening one or two people at the same time and we are all looking for five to ten people at the same time [employees] and fight for a very small workforce, ”said Bloom.

Uric Dufrene, Sanders Chair of Economics at Indiana University Southeast, said labor availability could be one of the biggest barriers to overall economic recovery from the pandemic.

“A restaurant cannot expand or be at 100% capacity if there is no staff available, just as a manufacturer cannot add production lines if no staff is available,” he said.

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