Many metro Atlanta restaurant workers taking jobs in other industries

ATLANTA — It’s a well-known fact that during and after the height of the pandemic, restaurants are struggling to get back on their feet due to a lack of staff.

Elijah Jacobs worked through a wild year-and-a-half as a chef at an Atlanta restaurant, but he is now among the latest group of people to leave the industry.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Karen Bremer, the CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association, says that some workers are leaving to pursue new careers in other fields that are also in desperate need of workers.

Jacobs has decided to put his degree to use and take a job as a teacher.

“The way life has presented this opportunity to me, taking a chance to open a new door that I’m really excited about,” he told Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon.

Jacobs says that during the height of the pandemic, he watched several of his coworkers do the same thing: leave the restaurant industry and pursue their passions.

“If you speak with them for a long period of time, you’ll discover they have lots of dreams and goals that are outside of a restaurant,” he said.

Bremer says that some believed many restaurant workers would return after the enhanced unemployment benefits reached their end, but they have not.


Jacobs, however, said the staffing issue at restaurants actually started growing before the pandemic with a lack of younger workers that restaurants rely on.

“This generation is a small generation. It’s not a large generation. We’ve had declining birth rates in this country for years now. Quite frankly, we need more workers,” Bremer said.

Bremer told Wilfon that she believes immigration reform could be the answer that restaurants need.

“You know, it’s obvious people want to come to come to our country and work. Why not vet them correctly? Come up with a workable work visa program where people can come for several years and work,” she said.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

While workers are calling for more pay, she believes many restaurants in metro Atlanta already pay as much as they can to attract workers, but Jacobs is not so sure.

“As for what restaurants themselves can do, like, higher pay, more benefits,” Jacobs suggested.

Bremer adds that some workers are quitting because they are tired of policing people wearing masks, and others quit because they are worried about their own health in a crowded restaurant.