SC restaurants strained by short-staffing

Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 7:50 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Restaurants in South Carolina are open for business after a year wracked by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The key now is having people available to run them.

South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association Chair Bobby Williams estimated the hospitality industry (including hotels) is short 5,000 workers.

He also owns the Lizard’s Thicket chain and said he could hire 75 workers on any given day.

Williams said federal aid in the form of stimulus checks and unemployment insurance is part of the problem. “[Workers] will take a month off or two months off, so when this money runs out I think people will be coming back to work,” he said.

It’s unclear when that will be, and Williams said the in the meantime the landscape of restaurants will change.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know if it’ll ever get back to the way we absolutely want the service to be, because we’ve had excess employees in the past and now we have hardly enough to get the dining rooms open,” he said.

Williams said restaurants will need to continue to pay competitive rates in order to recruit and retain workers, and the association will be hosting job fairs.

In Columbia, Village Idiot Pizza owner Brian Glynn said his staff across three locations pre-pandemic was 80 to 90 workers.

He said currently, it’s at 60.

“We’re just not getting a fraction of what we normally get, people coming in looking for jobs,” he said.

The lack of manpower has meant he’s been forced to reduce hours at his Five Points neighborhood location and accept almost all comers who apply.

“Our interview process is almost are you legally allowed to work in the U.S.? Okay, come on in, we’ll train you,” he said.

He said he’s concerned the situation could get worse when college students leave for the Summer.

The National Restaurant Association reports the industry net more than 300,000 hires in the first two months of 2021 but is still down 2 million jobs due to the pandemic.

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