Business booming as Columbia restaurants struggle to find employees
COLUMBIA (WOLO): Now hiring signs cover the glass and sidewalks of many Columbia restaurants. Lizards Thicket owner, Bobby Williams says he’s never seen a worker shortage this bad, as they’re down at least 100 employees.
“We’re really not getting people to come in the door and put in an application. Before we would have a stack of applications to go through and kind of pick who would fit into our business model, but now you walk in the door and you could be working that afternoon,” explained Williams.
But business is booming, and it’s hard for employees to keep up with the demand.
“Business is better than ever, and for the last 3 months, I would say the restaurant business in Columbia, and I know the entire state is the best it has been in years, so not only are we working short handed, we are extremely busy.”
However, smallSUGAR in the Vista is fully staffed. Owner Sarah Simmons says they haven’t experienced the worker shortage as many others have.
“For us what we’re seeing is that great people are still applying, people are reaching out to us. So I don’t think people are really staying home or not applying because people are lazy, I think it’s because people are just tired of working really hard in a back-breaking job for 8 dollars an hour,” said Simmons.
Simmons says her restaurant does not accept gratuity from customers, and instead pays her employees a living wage.
Both she and Williams agree something needs to change.
“I really hope that coming out of the pandemic, the companies that are experiencing a worker shortage will really open their eyes and realize that paying people well and treating people well is a better business model,” Simmons said.
“We need to do better training, we need to pay more, we need to make it more comfortable for them to work. The restaurant industry needs to change,” Williams said.