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Money and Business

With returning customers comes an increased need for more workers at many restaurants

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Restaurant owners throughout the Central Coast have been finding a shortage of workers as the customers are coming back in growing numbers with the relaxing of coronavirus rules.

Some applicants are new to the business, knowing of the openings. Some are looking to switch jobs or to add a second job.

Mostly, the concern is the number of jobs available and the lack of staff.

"Right now there is a shortage  definitely of employees," said Aaron Petersen who owns Chomp on the Rocks and Salty at the Beach located in the Santa Barbara Harbor.

The switch has gone quickly from the slow down for many months, to the reopening protocols allowing for larger outside dining areas parklets, patios and now, the return of inside dining.

Checks and line cooks are being sought by multiple businesses.

College-age workers are harder to come by in some areas because they have left the campus community housing to go home or elsewhere to study.

"I know friends in the hotel industry  are having the same struggle right now," said Petersen.  "That's not criticizing the system. We need to have that unemployment. It's just tough on us."

At the landmark Joe's Cafe downtown, manager Joey Somerville said, "this time of year we average about three to five resumes a day  typically.  This year, we are lucky to get three a week. "

There are also workers who are waiting until they get vaccinated to feel comfortable about getting back in front of hundreds of customers each week.

The owners are also finding some of their former workers still on the sidelines, riding out the financial boost they received through unemployment and government stimulus checks.

Unemployment payout reviews show the average weekly checks are between $300.- $400. a month, and during the pandemic crisis at times, that's been supplemented by government assistance of $400. a week.

Having a good employer to employee relationship before the pandemic has been a benefit. At Joe's, "a lot of those employees are 15-year employees and more, ya know Frankie has been here 50 years.   They counted on Joe's being there for them dand we're counting on them to be there for us.  We've been lucky.  Luckier than most. "

Somerville says a strategy being used is to have their employees make recommendations. "Good people know good people."

 Going forward the industry needs the workers and the workers will likely see their names on many shifts ahead on the weekly schedules.

"Restaurants in general, but business in general is up everywhere. Everyone seems to be optimistic. It is going in the right direction, we're happy that the place is busy and hopefully it stays that way," said Somerville.

Business Matters / Coronavirus / Economy / Health / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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