Ga. restaurant business struggling as search for employees becomes more difficult, owners say

DULUTH, Ga. — Unemployment has finally dropped to near-pandemic levels, but that does not mean all available jobs are being filled.

In Georgia alone, there are between 60,000 and 75,000 job openings, but few people are interviewing for those jobs.

The owner of a new restaurant in Gwinnett County wants to schedule his grand opening, but doesn’t have enough employees to open.

Chef Keith Kash tells Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen that he’s hiring, but there just aren’t enough takers.

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The chef’s brand new restaurant, Who’s Got Soul Southern Grill, has been ready for a couple of months, but he has not been able to hire the staff he needs.

“We can contribute it to the pandemic, to COVID. It’s clear that’s what happened. But at the end of the day, we all, at least the smart ones, have had to make some adjustments to be more competitive,” Kash told Petersen.

Kash says he raised the starting pay and even hired a production company to put his employment pitch on social media to help attract potential employees.

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Karen Bremer is the President of the Georgia Restaurant Association. She says 71% of the state’s servers are women and during the pandemic many women were faced with the choice of working or taking care of their children.

Joann Yoder owns a company that operates 63 Arby’s locations, many of which cannot fully open because of a lack of workers.

“Some of our restaurants are still 100% drive thru, so that’s different for us,” said Yoder.

Yoder believes there are three factors leading to this decline: access to childcare, lingering unease about health and safety and supplemental federal unemployment benefits and stimulus dollars.

Kash says it has always been a challenge to find a good staff, but never quite like this. There is a silver lining, though.

“I come from no pulling the door, right? So to have people anxious for you to open, that’s a blessing,” Kash said.

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He needs a staff of at least 10 to 14 people in order to open his new restaurant. He has hired a few people and put them to work in his other restaurants.

Kash hopes to open Who’s Got Soul Southern Grill soon, but can’t set a date just yet.