“We need help”: Roanoke restaurants struggling to hire workers

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The fight for workers is on. As most businesses rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, many restaurants are finding it hard to hire people.

“We need help,” said Renee “Butch” Craft, owner of The Roanoker.

On Thursday, May 6, the popular restaurant posted on Facebook that it’s cutting back hours due to “extreme problems with staffing.”

Since the business reopened in June, customers have been coming in and out of its doors, creating a greater need for help. The restaurant is currently operating at 50% capacity.

“We need eight servers on nightshift. Managers have been having to come in every night,” Craft said.

So desperate times called for desperate measures, and a dine-in option for dinner was temporarily eliminated.

“We had to reach a point where, what do we do? We don’t want to give bad service,” said Craft, “so we decided we had to cut a meal.”

The well-known restaurant isn’t the only one suffering from a lack of staffing in the Roanoke area.

Staff at Three Notch’d Brewing Company in downtown Roanoke say they’ve been dealing with the issue for months.

“You’re definitely seeing not as many people,” said Ben Harvey, the assistant general manager of Three Notch’d Brewing Company.

The business is seeing less than half of applicants compared to the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Harvey says they haven’t been forced to change their operating hours, there is still uncertainly when it comes to potential employees. He says most people have decided to take other career routes and follow their passions.

“I think we saw a little bit of everything at the beginning of it, now it’s figuring out when someone of those people may or may not come back,” Harvey said.

The question remains — why are there fewer applicants?

According to a local expert, restaurant closures at the beginning of the pandemic played a big factor. The change left many people no choice but to leave.

“The went to work for other businesses that were open and they’ve found work, in some cases, that paid more than what they were making, and they haven’t come back to restaurants,” said Tim Saunders, the Business Engagement and Outreach Coordinator for Virginia Career Works Central Region.

Safety concerns are also reasons, with some people still cautious of contracting or spreading COVID-19.

Many people are also having to chose family over work, with lack of child care options.

While most restaurant owners are hopeful for some relief in employment concerns, Saunders says the number of available workers will not be increasing anytime soon.

“I think we are still going see challenges with hiring for the next month or two,” Saunders said.

Saunders adds if you’re a business owner that’s struggling, it’s best to use more practical methods of acquiring new employees, such as social media and “word of mouth.”

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