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Rocco's Tacos in Palm Beach Gardens set to reopen but faces daunting obstacle

Restaurant workers hard to come by
Rocco's Tacos in Palm Beach Gardens set to open by Cinco de Mayo.
Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 17:06:00-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rocco's Tacos in Palm Beach Gardens closed in late November because of a fire that started in the kitchen, but it's not the fire damage and reconstruction that's the obstacle to reopening.

Tour of Rocco's Tacos Palm Beach Gardens locaiton

"The fire actually started right here," said Rocco Mangel owner of Rocco's Tacos as he pointed to a spot in the kitchen. "The water damage was the biggest thing from the fire going up three stories."

Mangel hopes to reopen by Cinco de Mayo, but he has more than reconstruction problems on his mind, "The biggest obstacle we have right now, is labor," said Mangel.

He is trying to hire everyone from dishwashers to managers.

"We've been hiring for a week and we've had three people come in and say, 'You know, I'd like to work here,'" said Mangel.

He says the weekly coronavirus unemployment benefits of $275 from the state of Florida and $300 from the Federal Government are his biggest obstacles to hiring.

"And right now, I think, with the extended unemployment and with the stimulus check, people are waiting until that runs out to make decisions," said Mangel.

He's not alone in trying to find help.

"The government is paying people to stay home. And when you pay people to stay home, you know, this is the consequences," said Angelo Abbenante, owner of Lynora’s.

"You'll go days and not even one application comes in," said Michelle Lefkowitz, owner of Salute Market. "Because half the workforce is lazy. Half the workforce doesn't want to work."

Mangel said some of his staff took jobs at his other restaurants and some say they will come back. He said others said, "'I'm waiting for unemployment to run out and I'm going to come back.' And we're going to welcome them back."

Workforce shortages are affecting his entire enterprise. "I've had to actually close a portion of one of my restaurants a couple of weeks ago because only seven people showed up for work," Mangel said.

Rocco's Tacos will be taking out a billboard on I-95 to recruit. "Now hiring all positions all locations." The Palm Beach Gardens location needs over 50 employees alone.

Mangel said he is offering employees bonuses for referring friends and family, and new employees that stay on for 90 days will get a signing bonus.

"I'm hoping we get enough people to come in and apply by [the time we open], but we don't know."