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Restaurants struggle to keep up with demand amid worker shortage

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 7:46 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Restaurant owners and managers in Columbia continue to search for employees as they struggle to keep up with the increasing demand for restaurant service. Restaurant industry professionals say worker shortages come in cycles, but this is the worst one that many of them have ever seen.

“We’re riding the wave. I’ve seen it before, I’ve been in the restaurant business for 22 years now. We have the highs and lows, this is the lowest I’ve ever seen it, but we’ll always rebound,” Beezer’s manager Chris Taylor said.

Lizard’s Thicket owner Bobby Williams agrees that this is the worst labor shortage he remembers in his 50 years in the industry, but he says to encourage workers to join the industry, managers must adapt to the needs of the workforce.

“We are going to have to develop a new workforce as restauranteurs,” Williams said. “I have to invest more in it, so we have to pay more, train better, and not overwork everybody. It’s always been long hours and low pay. Well, those days are over. Now, they’re better hours and better pay. We have to be competitive, so it’s better for the restaurant workers and they want a better work environment.”

Through the worker shortage, managers like Kim Hamilton and Recardo Jackson of Tio’s Mexican Café have had to increase their hours. “Usually, the managers have to step in and help. We just fill those roles wherever we need it. We do a lot of people who are within the staff that do step up and then carry on a little bit more weight,” Hamilton said.

The increased demand for restaurant service comes after the CDC lessened mask requirements and COVID restrictions from the past year, managers say.

President and CEO of Experience Columbia, Bill Ellen, stresses that jobs are available to those that want them. “Everybody is fighting the same battle. Everybody’s looking for workers. So, if you want to work your job’s there,” says Ellen.

Restaurant professionals ask that patrons be patient as managers work to staff their restaurants.

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