SFO (KPIX 5) — Some brand new high-end restaurants at SFO are finding themselves with a shortage of servers, leading the airport to pull out all the stops to land new hires.

The Bay Area’s sky-high housing prices have made it hard to fill low-wage jobs. It has become such a problem at SFO that restaurants are paying people just to come in for an interview.

“This is not your average airport kitchen. Normally airport kitchens are much smaller,” explained Jennifer Gauthier, the General Manager at Samovar Tea Lounge.

Located in SFO’S international terminal, they’re not putting out standard airport fast food. On Friday, cooks were roasting rosemary and dicing duck for a Vietnamese dish.

The new twist on airport food that’s really taking off.

This summer SFO will see an influx of Michelen star chefs and fine dining options, but keeping servers on staff is proving difficult.

Gauthier said she has several servers driving 2-3 hours from Tracy every day in traffic.

“Some people can stick that out for a while, but after a while its not feasible so we do have a hard time keeping staff”

So some new restaurants are offering incentives like a $500 signing bonus, or even a $50 gift card just for interviewing.

Michael Bernick used to run California’s Labor Department.

“$500 is significant, but again in the Bay Area, it doesn’t go very far. So it’s still, I think, an uphill climb,” said Bernick.

He says with unemployment as low as it is, workers can be more selective.

“Virtually all our counties are under three percent last month. San Francisco was at 2.1 percent. These are figures we haven’t seen in four decades,” said Bernick.

He says the unemployment numbers, like many Bay Area stories, are tied to the cost of living here. Most people who may be looking for minimum wage jobs have left the region.

Gauthier says it’s all about finding the right employee. Many of her cooks are in culinary school or high school students who recently graduated.

“When you hear in San Francisco you’re on the low income level at $120,000, it’s hard,” said Gauthier.


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