'In full desperation mode,' some restaurant owners turn to unconventional methods to hire employees

Stephanie Giordano, who has worked in the hospitality industry at various locations and in various functions since 1999, thought she had seen it all - until a few weeks ago someone applied for a job as a hostess at Cucina Cabana, the Italian-continental restaurant where she currently runs north Palm Beach, Florida.
"This candidate wanted $ 25 an hour, medical, dental vision and her own parking lot," said Giordano. "Oh, and she didn't want to work on weekends, which is our busiest time of the week."
Giordano says she shared this story with her 20 employees and everyone had a great time. But what's going on in the restaurant world is no joke.
After all, many restaurants across the country operate with significantly fewer staff. Capacities are limited, opening times are uncertain, waiting times for tables and food are unusually long, employees are young and inexperienced, menus are reduced, and guests are filing a record number of complaints, according to restaurant analysis company Black Box Intelligence.
Pedestrians leave on the 22nd - Restaurant owners in California are facing a labor crisis amid the Covid reopening and cannot find enough workers, while the National Restaurant Association reported in 2020 that the food and beverage industry was around 2.5 million Jobs have been lost. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images)
While restaurants ask for patience and understanding, they are actively recruiting new employees in unconventional - and sometimes controversial - ways.
Some go door-to-door distributing job flyers in the local community. Others hold “open days”, strengthen their social media accounts and lure potential employees with lucrative perks - from higher wages and signing bonuses to paid vacation, improved benefits and free housing. Some take a more questionable approach, such as tapping into more undocumented workers.
"You have bargaining power," said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economics, who is Black Box's economic advisor. "That's not to say that restaurants are rushing to hire illegals, but you are doing things that you don't want to do when you have no choice but to keep the lights on."
"I even hear stories of people getting paid under the table so they can keep their perks," said Carlos Gazitua, CEO of Sergio’s, a Cuban family chain based in South Florida. "Right now the restaurants are in full desperation mode."
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Not Kate's Simple Eats in Marion, Massachusetts.
"Finding good help in this industry has always been a challenge, so I see no point in motivating new employees if you don't know about them or if they will work," said owner Kate Ross. "I celebrate people who show up and give bonuses and thank-you notes to loyal workers."
It also offers its nine employees competitive, livable wages and, above all, a healthy working environment in an industry known for its toxicity. “The people I work with are important to me. I adore them. We're a family here, ”she said.
A desirable environment is what restaurant workers ultimately look for, Naroff said.
"The scarcity is spreading all over the economy, but why are we hearing so much about it in the restaurant sector?" He said. "Survey after survey across the country shows that it is about working conditions and pay does not make up for the lousy conditions."
People are having breakfast at a restaurant promoting their recruitment in Annapolis, Maryland on May 12, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images)
Restaurant staff had plenty of time to think and explore opportunities in other areas, Naroff said. They will ultimately decide in September whether or not to return to the dining world - when unemployment benefits run out and the kids go back to school.
"That's when the rubber hits the road," he said.
Apart from the downside risks caused by highly contagious Covid-19 variants such as Delta, many restaurateurs agree.
"I think September will mark the beginning to the end of the labor shortage and the situation will 'calm down' on its own," said Gazitua, who heads a staff of over 400 people. "In fact, we are already seeing an influx of applicants who want to go back to work (10-12 applicants in the last week alone, versus five applicants in a typical week) but who only want to start then."
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Personal finance journalist Vera Gibbons is a former employee of SmartMoney magazine and a former correspondent for Kiplingers Personal Finance. Vera, who served MSNBC as an on-air financial analyst for over a decade, currently co-hosts the weekly apolitical news podcast, NoPo, which she founded. She lives in Palm Beach, Florida.

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