Restaurants Having a Difficult Time Finding Employees


Aidan Sims, Writer

Last year, the United States faced the greatest layoff and job shortage crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s, in some industries, greater. Millions of workers were put off work and claimed unemployment benefits and stimulus payments as a result. It seems like now the pandemic is finally coming to a close, yet the economy is facing a different crisis as of late: restaurants can’t find enough workers. 

We have seen this in just Madison alone as Smokey’s BBQ will be closing in the near future, not because of financial hardship caused by the pandemic but because of staffing. Another restaurant, Old Mexico, will now be closed on Sundays because they don’t have enough workers to cover Sundays.

Many have been quick to assume that people aren’t taking these restaurant jobs because they don’t need the money after unemployment benefits and stimulus checks. Governor Kay Ivey has already made steps in this approach as pandemic unemployment benefits will be suspended on June 19th. This decision was made in order to spur employment amidst a worker shortage in the restaurant industry. But this idea usually isn’t the case, as it’s shown that people are more likely to find meaningful employment when they have the financial aid to get that job. 

It could be that workers don’t want to wait tables or host for 8 dollars an hour or less when they could scan items at Walmart or Target and make substantially more money starting off. Why would someone take an arguably more difficult job, have less consistent hours, and receive less pay than what they would get working in retail? 

Not only are we seeing a shortage of workers in restaurants, due to most places having curbside pickup and the rise of delivery apps like Grubhub and UberEats, but also restaurants also may not need as many workers in the restaurant taking orders and waiting tables. It’s quite possible that there will be a rise in restaurants that don’t have a “sit-down-and-eat” space and will only be curbside pickup. 

Given this, it is important to keep in mind that the federal minimum wage has not risen in 12 years, while prices for houses, cars, and other large dollar investments have seen a growth rate higher than ever before. Simply, the cost of living is increasing rapidly while the U.S. has seen a stall on median wages for most workers and even a slight fall in some industries. It is also important to note that the U.S. is seeing new levels of wealth amongst the top 1 percent, as the richest person in the world, Elon Musk, more than tripled his net worth just last year.

With so much money being held at the top, less money is being circulated back into the economy to support local businesses. This result is worsened by the fact that certain corporations have a negative effective tax rate, meaning that their subsidies, bailouts, and benefit claims completely pay their taxes and more. With all of this happening so suddenly, made worse by the pandemic, restaurants and local businesses are in a tight spot. 

So yes, it is difficult to believe that many people would suddenly work for a low-paying job when there are other better opportunities, but businesses are already having enough trouble staying afloat after that pandemic, let alone affording to raise wages for their workers. Because of the massive inflation and wealth inequality created by the loopholes and exploitation of mega-corporations, restaurants and small businesses are completely out of lives in the game of Capitalism. Hopefully, we will see some increased support for our local businesses as the pandemic comes to an end so that there won’t be a job shortage swing because of all the closings.