AUSTIN, Texas - Restaurant and bar owners in Austin say they are facing extreme staffing shortages. One theory they have: those collecting unemployment are making more money than they would in some positions and jobs, and they're taking that paycheck over going back to work.
Owners say that when the pandemic hit, many in the industry had to find new jobs, or went on a completely new career path.
"It became unnecessary for people to be at risk or feel at risk for the type of pay people receive in this type of industry," said Rachelle Fox, co-owner of the Cavalier in East Austin.
Charles Milligan, the owner of Doc’s Backyard Grill, says the staffing shortage is widespread. "It’s frustrating that we can’t get people to work," he said.
Currently, he's operating at a 33% to nearly 50% reduction in staff. "We’re closing down what we have because we don’t have the staff," Milligan said.
For Fox, she says she sees the shortage affect her differently each week. Sometimes it's through vendors, other times through servers. "We’ll have customers asking for something on our menu and I have to tell them I can’t get that item from my vendor, I may be able to get it next week," she said.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, for the week ending April 10th, 2,514 people filed for unemployment in the foodservice industry. For the week ending April 3rd, 4,552 people filed. For the week ending 3/27, 4,004 people filed and for the week ending 3/20, 4,105 people filed.
Milligan said he understands that some people do need unemployment or can’t be at work right now. His frustration, he says, is the people who can work but are unwilling. "These people are bankrolling, and they know that and they’re possibly making more than they would in some jobs or positions," he said.
That’s why he posted a sign in his restaurant saying, "Thank you staff for showing up and working as some unemployed choose not to."
Both owners said they are grateful for the staff they have, and for those who are working.
"What we really ask for people is great patience during these growing pains," Fox said. "No one really has the staff for the amount of people who are ready to go out."