HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — If you have been to a restaurant recently and it took a while to be served, it could be because the business is short on staff.
The restaurant industry in the United States is in the midst of a staffing shortage, and the pandemic could be a factor in why. Restaurants across the U.S. are struggling to keep up as states continue to roll back COVID-19 restrictions.
Many restaurants in the U.S. are finding themselves without enough employees. Managers in Huntsville say they are feeling the impact of these shortages.
Chop Chop Fresh Salads Manager Cliff Bunch said, "We haven't had this much trouble staffing in the four years that I've worked at Chop Chop."
Restaurants are known to have high turnover rates, but businesses are running into challenges they haven't seen before.
"We do get some applications here and there but just not as many as we usually do," said Bunch.
Bunch says they have seen a decline in applicants over the last year. Chop Chop Fresh Salads hasn't taken down their hiring sign since they opened their new location in August.
Small and large companies are seeing this trend.
Chuy's in Huntsville is looking to bring on staff. Employees there say applicants are sparse right now.
Panera Bread in Madison posted a sign in their drive-thru noting their staffing shortage. One manager at Panera Bread says they are currently having a company-wide hiring competition to bring on more employees.
Now that more people are vaccinated for COVID-19 and many people are comfortable dining out again, these staffing shortages are leaving employees overwhelmed.
"If you are going out to eat right now, throw a mask on and just be patient with the staff," said Bunch. "It's not always their fault that things are backed up."
Because so many restaurants are hiring, especially in rapidly growing cities like Huntsville and Madison, there's just not enough talent to fill all the positions. Bunch believes this could be a factor in the high turnover rates they are seeing right now.
“If you get hired on and you give it a few shifts and you don’t really like it, you can say well this store over here is hiring, maybe I’ll give them a shot," said Bunch.
Because of the demand, some restaurants say they are now paying their employees more to ensure they have enough staff.
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