Restaurants remain understaffed even as demand recovers after pandemic

'We’re modeling anything we do in the future towards having less staff,' owner says
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jan 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-27 18:10:20-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The restaurant industry continues to add jobs now for the 24th consecutive month, and it’s still the industry with the largest employment deficit.

Palm Beach County restaurants are still dealing with challenges three years since the pandemic.

The hiring process for new restaurants is even more of a challenge. Not only do they face steep competition against other local new spots, but they’re also competing for hires against understaffed established restaurants.

Red Pine is a new Chinese restaurant opening in Boca Raton on March 1 and it will take around 60 employees to staff.

"[We need] servers, bartenders and definitely in the back of the house too, cooks," Michael Schenk said.

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Chef Chi Chan is hopeful despite labor shortage.

Chefs Schenk and Chi Chan, both coming from Farmer’s Table under the same ownership, said the industry as a whole hasn’t been the same since COVID. Many restaurant employees laid off during shutdowns and never came back to the industry.

“It has taken its toll and we’re still struggling to recover from that,” Schenk said.

Data from the National Restaurant Association reveals the industry is short 450,000 jobs. More than 60% of dine-in restaurants said they don’t have enough staff to support demand.

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Owner Melanie Hackman explains how she plans to grow her cafe and bakery Aioli.

This news puts Melanie Hackman’s plan to expand her cafe and bakery Aioli on hold.

“We’re at a point now where we need to grow,” she said. “Because the demands of the new traffic that we have in the area, it’s hard to add to our team and grow.”

Hackman said the new spot opening will be take out only.

“We’re modeling anything we do in the future towards having less staff,” she said.

Restaurants are working through this shortage, while making sure customer experience isn’t compromised and employees feel valued.

Chef Michael Schenk.jpg
Chef Michael Schenk explains how the pandemic has impacted the restaurant industry.

“I want the people to come in and be invited and join this new family that we're kind of creating in Boca,” Chan said.

The chefs at Red Pine restaurant and lounge said another challenge the industry is facing is keeping up with the need for higher pay for workers.

Local data from Career Source Palm Beach County shows more than 2,000 restaurant chef jobs added since 2020 but the average entry level pay hasn’t changed much.