MARTINEZ (KPIX) — Right when the restaurant and retail industries are bouncing back with customers returning as COVID restrictions ease, many businesses are facing a new hurdle: hiring employees to fill open positions.
For some restaurants and retailers in the East Bay, it is an economic crisis on the heels of the pandemic. It’s happening in cities and towns, big and small. And no matter what is driving it, a lot of service and retail workers are absolutely feeling it.READ MORE: Car Flies Off Road Onto Metal Pipes at San Francisco DPW Lot
“I could be adding two to three more waitresses, servers on the floor,” said Michelle Strong, owner of Firehouse Brew & Grill in Martinez. “I could be adding more bartenders.”
With more customers returning, Firehouse needs help from the patio to the kitchen, as many as five more employees. Like many other restaurants, they’ve barely gotten any applications.
“The people that are working here are working hard,” Strong said. “They’re doing double. We just need more help.”
“I take cases of fava beans and English peas home and I have my parents help me clean those things,” explained Arash Ghasemi, owner of Walnut Creek’s Main Street Kitchen. “Which is just ridiculous.”
The restaurant is also desperate for help, offering $30 an hour for a part-time pastry chef. The ads are going largely unanswered.READ MORE: Park Service Installs Water Troughs at Point Reyes to Help Tule Elk Survive Drought
“We pay a couple of hundred dollars every week,” said Ghasemi. “We put ads on three different platforms, Facebook.”
“I see the other merchants all over the street with the help wanted signs, and it doesn’t seem to be helping,” said Michelle Earl, owner of nearby Paia Mercantile.
Earl just opened her store and now finds herself working six days a week with just 12 hours of help. It leaves almost no time for back-of-house work.
“Customers come first, so I’ve got to be up here. Every day,” she said.
Like a lot of other business owners, Earl thinks the situation might not change until September when expanded unemployment benefits expire.MORE NEWS: Grass Fire Burns 4 Acres Near Middle School in Santa Rosa
“That’s what I’m banking on,” Earl said. “That the change will come in September and we might see some people who are actually finally looking to settle into a job.”