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Restaurants operating understaffed while struggling to fill job vacancies

Published: May. 1, 2021 at 10:52 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It’s been an ongoing struggle as businesses start to re-open, finding people to fill job openings. The restaurant industry has been hit extremely hard by the lack of applicants. Some area owners are asking customers to be patient as everyone works towards a return to normal.

Chef and owner of Lilikoi Asian Bistro Greg Cook said, “I actually had to close this restaurant for two weeks in April, I did not even have enough staff to open the restaurant. So I lost half a month’s revenue. We just struggle to find bartenders, servers, cooks.”

Cook just opened his restaurant in December and after less than six months of business, he said he has several positions he can’t fill.

“I’ve run ads on Indeed, Facebook jobs, Craigslist. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve spent about eight or nine hundred dollars on Indeed trying to hire help,” said Cook.

On Indeed.com, in the city of Wichita alone, there are over 260 cook positions listed and over 150 server positions.

Cook said, “The last ad I ran, I had 10 responses for cook, eight people no-showed to their interviews and I actually only had two people show up for interviews.”

Not only is it a Wichita problem, it’s a national problem, including world-renowned chefs like Aaron Sanchez also having a hard time finding employees. A March report by the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that 42% of small business owners reported having jobs they couldn’t fill.

“With the unemployment benefits they’re getting with the additional seven hundred dollars a week on top of that, a lot of people just didn’t want to come back to work,” said Cook. “They were making more by staying home than they were working.”

But Cook believes a compromise between the $15/hour minimum wage and the tip incentive can be a solution to the limited applicant pool.

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