South Florida restaurants get ready for 'season' amid worker shortage

Workforce is 95% of 2019 level, Palm Beach County tourism officials say
Posted at 4:06 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-18 18:42:37-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The so-called "season" has arrived in South Florida when people from all over the U.S. and the world visit the area to enjoy the sunny skies and pleasant weather.

The buzz of busy restaurants is back.

"It’s definitely becoming busier," restaurant patron Nicholas Olinde said.

Local residents know when the tourist season is picking up.

"No, no, I hate it," Olinde laughed.

Julien Gremaud, the owner of Avocado Grill and Avocado Cantina, is slicing, dicing and hiring.

Julien Gremaud, Avocado Grill
Julien Gremaud outlines the struggles to find restaurant workers during the current economy.

"Oh yes, (hiring is) still a problem," he said. "It is very frustrating for us."

But while the staffing shortage exists, the service never stops.

"We are very excited it is starting now," Gremaud said. "It's a lot of work to try to plan for a busy season."

In the tourism world, they're keeping close track of industry job numbers and getting ready for a busy time of year.

"Some restaurants are more ahead than others in terms of hiring people, but we believe with the efforts we have done, they will be prepared to handle our visitors," Milton Segarra, the chief marketing officer for Discover the Palm Beaches.

Milton Segarra, chief marketing officer for Discover the Palm Beaches
Milton Segarra says the number of workers employed by the hospitality industry in Palm Beach County is close to what it was in 2019.

According to Discover the Palm Beaches, five million visitors are expected to visit Palm Beach County this winter season. Segarra said the hospitality workforce is about 95% compared to what it was in 2019. He said hotels and restaurants are hiring in expectation of a booming season.

"The pre-pandemic levels, we are almost there — only 5% behind," Segarra said.

To make up for that, Gremaud said he's trying to cook up the perfect recipe for workers. The ingredients include good money and good schedules, alongside good food.

"For my management team, we reduced their hours to less hours per week to make sure they stay in the workforce, and for hourly employees, we try to be flexible with their schedules to make sure they have a life outside of work," Gremaud said.