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Local restaurants struggle to find workers as customers come back in full force

Restaurant owners say they need help finding cooks and employees to work in the kitchen.

TAMPA, Fla. — Just as restaurants are trying to bounce back from pandemic-related closures, a new challenge is proving to be a major hurdle. 

They say they can't hire enough staff. And we're not talking about just servers.

"We didn't think it would ever be this bad. A year ago it was a privilege to be at work and be an essential worker," the managing partner of Mary Margaret, Pete Boland said. 

From Mary Margaret's to the Crafty Squirrel in downtown St. Pete, many local bars and restaurant owners are feeling the short staff pain.

"To give you some numbers, in Pinellas County alone, back in 2019, the hospitality industry used to employ over 100,000 people but currently we are employing 65,000 people," Crafty Squirrel owner Josh Cameron said. "But the numbers of customers coming in is already back to pre-COVID numbers so, the people are coming back but we don't have all the staff we need to do all the work to serve them."

Cameron says they are currently looking for workers with all skillsets. 

"There's a big calling for 'back of the house' jobs right now. That's everything from green to experienced line cooks and more," he said.

Other local restaurants have also posted about the same problem. Dead Bob's posted on their Facebook page a post stating: "We are short-staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore."

Another issue some owners say they are noticing is people not being reliable.

"We have people that may show interest in the job but then don't show up or they miss their first day for whatever reason," Boland said.

Employees not showing up only puts more strain on the rest of the team to serve customers with less staff. The issue is even starting to impact other growth opportunities. 

"I'd like to open a new concept but one of the biggest drawbacks to doing so isn't financing problems it's staffing problems. We can't even find people to hold it down for us," Boland said.

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