CORONAVIRUS

Salt Lake Restaurants Struggling To Find Workers

May 5, 2021, 7:33 PM | Updated: 9:34 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The state of Utah has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions and since then, as the state reopens for business, restaurants have scrambled to find and hire more staff.

Many eateries thrived before the pandemic hit. Since then, it’s been a constant struggle.

“I think the uncertainty has scared people,” said Matt Crandall, head chef the Bourbon Group, which runs the Bourbon House, White Horse and Whiskey Street restaurants.

Two of his three locations have limped along, but one restaurant, Bourbon Street, hasn’t opened on some days because there were not enough workers to fill shifts.

“The back of the house is the hardest to find jobs for right now,” Crandall said.

“A lot of my family that worked in restaurants didn’t want to go back. They got other jobs,” said Vanessa McCandless, sous chef at White Horse Spirits and Kitchen on Main Street.

According to job search site Glassdoor, 120,000 former servers who previously looked for jobs in the restaurant industry searched for other jobs more often.

Their searches for data entry jobs increased by 400% in April and May. Their searches for remote work jumped roughly 300% and other searches for jobs at Amazon rose 600%.

McCandless said the family setting kept her coming back.

“(It’s) about finding the right place,” she said.

The owner of Twist Bar and Bistro, Kirk Bengtzen, said he has scheduled 20 interviews, with only 4 people who actually followed through.

Bengtzen has planned to open a new club in Salt Lake City. He called the hiring process extremely difficult. 

Several restaurant owners have turned to cash incentives to land workers who are hungry for a job.

Michael McHenry owns several restaurants across the state, including Ginger Street, Dirty Bird Fried Chxx, Oakwood, and Sunday Best.

Team members who referred qualified workers earned $100. In addition, new hires from the outside got a $500 signing bonus. 

“Nutty, right?!” McHenry said, “But it is working! We are relentlessly committed to hiring the best and building the most furthering cultures within our beloved neighborhoods.”

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Salt Lake Restaurants Struggling To Find Workers