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Restaurants still struggle to fill positions

Industry leaders are working hard to attract new employees, but still find restaurants are short-staffed.
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2021 at 10:53 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - While the hospitality and service industries make a comeback, restaurants are still struggling to fill positions.

Restaurants-- like Katie’s in Mid-City-- are seeing an increase in business as COVID-19 restrictions lift, but they’re feeling the pressure of being busy and understaffed.

“If we fill up all the tables, then we won’t have enough servers for it,” said Michael Cooke, Manager at Katie’s.

He said the problem is there aren’t that many applicants, and often times the expectations are far-reaching.

“We’ve had some people say ‘Hey, I want to be a server for $20 an hour.’ I can’t pay you $20 an hour to be a server,” said Cooke. “I’m sorry. Like, I wish I could but it’s not, it doesn’t work like that.”

Cooke said they’re making it for now with the employees they have, but it’s not easy. The demand in business makes it hard on the kitchen and crew. He said several positions are available for the taking; hoping for someone to walk through the doors to apply.

Other businesses are taking a more aggressive approach by posting up at job fairs to attract new employees.

“These businesses have had a devastating year with COVID they’re ready to get back up and running, but they need the talented staff to do that,” said Kelly Schulz with New Orleans & Company. “We are continuing to see people make job offers here today on the spot and I will tell you, many of these employers are ready to offer benefits packages, competitive wages.”

And that’s what the leadership team at Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts is doing-- offering long-term incentive packages and long-term career paths for growth within the company.

“To be honest with you, we are working very hard,” said Zeid Ammari, COO of Creole Cuisine Restaurant Concepts. He said the pandemic wasn’t kind to the industry and the restaurant group.

“We went from 1,500 to 30 people down to 30 people instantly,” said Ammari. “We have built up from 30 people back up to 900 people today.”

But now the restaurant group needs to fill 400 positions..

With 20 restaurants across the city-- like Broussard’s, Cafe Maspero, and Flamingo a Go-Go-- the group is working to attract new employees by restructuring the pay scale, offering performance bonus packages, health insurance, 401K plans and more.

And while there are challenges now, both agree things are looking up.

“It’s just been real tough getting employees in here you know,” said Cooke back at Katie’s. “We’re lucky to have the people we have here now because without them we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Many restaurants are also offering sign-on bonuses for new employees to help fill positions.

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