Restaurant Owners Struggling To Find Workers As Business Picks Back Up

Aug 6, 2021, 10:59 PM | Updated: Aug 7, 2021, 12:50 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Business in the restaurant industry has bounced back in recent months, but many restaurant owners are struggling to keep up because workers haven’t come back.

You don’t have to think too far back to recognize the restaurant scene has come a long way since 2020, when COVID restrictions forced restaurants to close, and instability, fear of the virus and layoffs drove away customers and employees.

“COVID was hard for everybody,” said Moudi Sbeity, owner of Laziz Kitchen, located in the Granary District in Salt Lake City.

For some, the pandemic was too much.

Like many others, Laziz Kitchen adapted and survived, turning to takeout food and relying heavily on pandemic relief from the federal government.

“I think that’s what that year required everybody to do,” Sbeity said.

More than a year later, customers are back.

“What’s crazy is people are going out in droves right now. People have been stir crazy over the last year,” said Michele Corigliano, executive director of the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association.

But now, Sbeity and other restauranteurs face a different kind of challenge: finding enough workers to keep up with demand.

Sbeity said he has been more fortunate than others. He attributes that to the culture they’ve created at Laziz Kitchen. But he still is short on servers and cooks in the kitchen.

“Three years ago, you could hire a cook at $12 an hour, and you had a lot of cooks wanting to work,” he said.

Today, he said, “on average, all of our employees at least make $16 to $18 an hour because you can’t live on anything less than that.”

“It’s really bad right now. I have owners calling me up crying saying, ‘Please send me a dishwasher. Please send me a line cook,’” Corigliano said. “I have seen up to $2,000 signing bonuses.”

But wages aren’t the only thing that former employees are looking for.

Former server Sybley Wozmak was laid off when the restaurant she worked for closed down at the end of 2020. She described the job as “incredibly frustrating” because of her interactions with customers and her financial dependence on tips that sometimes didn’t come.

Since then, she’s pursued her passion for dancing and has become a phlebotomist, which she said offers her greater stability.

“I know I’m going to get paid no matter what. I know I can do the exact job I did from one patient to another and know that I’m going to put in my 100%,” Wozmak said.

Another challenge facing the hospitality industry is food costs have gone up. And when you’re paying more for labor and for the ingredients to make the food, the menu takes a hit.

Laziz Kitchen is one of countless restaurants where customers will notice higher meal prices.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus Utah

The Nurse Crisis and Patent Risk....
Debbie Worthen

Utah registered nurses are leaving the field, creating the ‘perfect storm’

"Without nurses, we can't have hospitals." Utah nurses are overworked and underpaid. Some say it's put people at risk.
5 days ago
Four-year-old Viola Fairfax-Panza Getting her COVID-19 vaccination, held by her mother Keke Fairfax...
Jed Boal

Salt Lake Co. distributes COVID vaccines for children 6-months and older

Salt Lake County begins COVID-19 vaccinations for children 6 months and older.
5 days ago
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Stephen Zenner/Getty Images)...
Jed Boal

Utah’s youngest kids should be able to get COVID-19 vaccine next week

Kids as young as 6 months old should be able to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the middle of next week. This is an eagerly awaited opportunity for many parents and an issue of concern for others.
9 days ago
Utah COVID testing site. Getty images...
Cary J. Schwanitz, KSL TV

New mobile COVID-19 testing sites open in Utah

With the summer travel season underway and a steady stream of people still testing positive for COVID-19, Nomi Health opened several mobile testing sites across Utah.
18 days ago
The CDC is released updated mask guidance as researchers learn more about COVID-19. (KSL TV)...
Michael Houck, KSL TV

Charter school asks students not to mask to help ‘normalize’ not wearing masks at school

The American Preparatory Academy asks students not to wear a mask during their last three days of school to help with their 'academic and emotional growth.'
29 days ago
AURORA, CO - DECEMBER 15: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center investigat...
Jed Boal, KSL TV

Pfizer booster shot is now approved for children 5-11, here’s what a doctor advises

The CDC now recommends Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for children ages five to 11. But, a leading pediatric epidemiologist suggests some parents may want to wait based on their summer plans.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Restaurant Owners Struggling To Find Workers As Business Picks Back Up