Staffing shortages continue to hamper Palm Beach County restaurant owners

'We try to hire. Nobody showed up,' Havana restaurant owner says
Posted at 4:52 PM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 18:11:36-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Business owners are dealing with severe staffing shortages, prompting some stores to be temporarily closed or reduce their hours.

Some say there's no relief in sight.

In 28 years, the owner of Havana restaurant in West Palm Beach said any time he's put out a "now hiring" sign, he's never had any issue getting candidates in the door.

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But this year has been different, and he's not alone.

The chairs are stacked three days a week at one of West Palm Beach's most popular Cuban restaurants.

Havana restaurant owner Rafael Perez
Havana restaurant owner Rafael Perez speaks about staffing problems.

"We need busboys, waiters, hostesses, people in the kitchen," Havana owner Rafael Perez said.

Right now, the pick-up window at Havana's restaurant is open around the clock.

Customer Leonard Williams drove from Boynton Beach on Tuesday to get a seat for lunch.

"I like the oxtail, red beans and rice," Williams said.

But like many other customers, he is finding out the restaurant can only afford to seat customers four days a week and for dinner only.

Havana customer Leonard Williams
Customer Leonard Williams visited Havana on Tuesday for lunch but discovered their indoor dining was closed to customers.

Perez said he can't find people who want to work.

"We try to hire. Nobody showed up," Perez said. "We've never had this problem."

Other businesses are facing the same problem of not being able to hire enough workers.

One restaurant downtown is closed temporarily.

Executive director for the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority Raphael Clemente said even businesses that open regularly are struggling to hire staff.

Raphael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority
Raphael Clemente discusses the current labor shortage in West Palm Beach.

"Business people in general, but the ones that I know in the downtown area, the most innovative, creative and diligent hardworking people that I've ever met, they’re figuring it out," Clemente said.

Relief doesn't seem to be flowing in any time soon.

For the seventh consecutive month in Palm Beach County, the hospitality and leisure industry leads in job growth, but there are more jobs open overall than there are people unemployed.

"It’s been tough," Perez said. "Hopefully it gets better."