Bay Area restaurants facing worker shortage

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions is a boon for many Bay Area businesses. No where is this more true than in the restaurant industry. But a paradox is making it difficult to find employees.

"We’re not seeing as many folks applying for those jobs," said restaurateur Laurie Thomas. "But It hasn’t been easy and I know there’s a little bit of a shortage for senior-level chefs."

This is the reality facing all restaurateurs on a mission to find help. There are job openings filling multiple pages on some employment websites.

"It’s a good time to get into the company you’d like to get into. And that you expect is gonna do well in the recovery," said Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, a strategic management professor at San Jose State University.

During the lunch hour Tuesday, Joel Ashley is getting put through the paces as part of his training at Campbell’s Rock Bottom Brewery. He’s one of the few new hires manager Nick Forbes was able to snag.

"It is a challenge finding people at the time. But we’ve been doing pretty good. And just looking for more and more people all the time," said Forbes.

The other industry search is for federal dollars as part of the newly implemented Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Upwards of $30B is targeted to help owners rebound from closed doors and half-empty dining rooms.

"It’s critical. I’ve been personally very stressed. It’s critical," said Thomas, who owns two San Francisco restaurants.

She spent hours last weekend completing forms, and is hopeful her inclusion in a 21 day preferential period for women and minority owners will help reverse red ink on her books.

"These are grants. and if you get it is a much broader acceptable set of uses," she said. Added Dr. Wood, "This revitalization fund can be important for those restaurants that are able to get money from it."

Industry losses are estimated at over $100B, and the fund only has about $30B. So many businesses owners could be left out, unless congress reauthorizes more money.