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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
A Sunday salvage
May 12, 2024

College Station business owners struggle to find employees

The+aftermath+of+the+pandemic+has+left+businesses+across+College+Station+in+a+rapid+search+for+employees+including+restaurant+owners%2C+who+seem+to+have+been+hit+the+hardest.
FILE

The aftermath of the pandemic has left businesses across College Station in a rapid search for employees including restaurant owners, who seem to have been hit the hardest.

Job openings reached a high of 9.3 million the last business day of April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet College Station business owners say they are struggling to hire enough staff to meet demand as customers have returned.
“We went to 100 percent capacity quite frankly overnight,” Wade Beckman, owner of Shipwreck Grill, Amico Nave, 3rd On Main Kitchen and Admiral Catering, said. “And none of us have really been able to catch up to the number of staff we need to operate at that level.”
Beckman also said consumer habits have changed. Restaurants are seeing fewer customers at lunch hours due to people working remotely and almost no customers at night.
“Before you used to get 20 to 30 applications at a time and you could reach out whenever you needed people,” Rolando Gonzalez, owner of The Tacobar on Wellborn Road, said. “Now you get some, but people aren’t coming in or showing up for interviews.”
It is a major challenge to compete with corporate sign-on bonuses and other incentives, Gonzalez said. However, Beckman said since Texas opted out of all federal unemployment assistance programs after June 26, more people may reenter the workforce.
Making matters worse are the rising costs from food producers who are short on staff and unable to process food quickly enough to keep up with demand, Beckman said.
“In some cases, our prices are up over 100 percent,” Beckman said. “I hope people understand that across the board there are supply issues, labor issues and service issues. You’re having to work harder to provide the same level of service and same quality.”
To counter the shortage and pandemic restrictions, Gonzalez increased wages at The Tacobar, but was forced to limit hours and sometimes reduce service to drive-thru only.
“You don’t want to be understaffed and exhaust your staff working extra and longer shifts,” Gonzalez said. “It decreases our output and performance, which is why we started closing earlier Sundays and Mondays or paying some days off for cooks. That way once you’re actually here at work you’re more productive and in a better mood.”
The stress of working in food service during the pandemic has “cemented” a pessimistic view of the lack of social security nets in the U.S., Helen Schmidt, a manager and bartender at Johnny Carino’s Italian, said. Yet, it is hard to tell if the hiring shortage is due to wages or the already high turnover rate due to difficult working conditions in the service industry.
“It makes me very angry, because I can afford to live but I am a couple missed paychecks away from not being able to,” Schmidt said. “I’m coming as someone who has a relatively wealthy family to fall back on and I’m already feeling stressed out trying to stay afloat. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who don’t have that cushion of their family to fall back on.”
Amy Crull, a former sales associate at Claire’s, said there wasn’t enough money to make her stay at the job, which had very high expectations of its employees.
“Often, they expected ridiculous feats like reorganizing the entire store in one shift, and we would get in trouble if we used any overtime,” Crull said. “This led to us frequently working off the clock for significant portions of time.”
Having worked both low-paying jobs and “cushier” jobs, Crull said minimum wage jobs are much harder work.
“The turnover rate was really intense [before the shortage],” Crull said. “The pay wasn’t a huge issue for me, but I knew other girls who were living paycheck to paycheck, working multiple jobs or [who] were single moms.”
Crull has worked as a freelance tutor since pandemic restrictions were relaxed and said the conditions are much better at the university she contracts with. Gonzalez said the pandemic has pushed many to learn other ways to make money after the mass layoffs, which caused much of the shortage.
“They learned different ways to make money so now they’re comfortable to a point where it’s like, ‘Why would I go back to my old job?’” Gonzalez said. “They can work at home more comfortably and have more time and more freedom. I feel all that has affected how the industry will continue.”
Shipwreck Grill, Amico Nave, 3rd On Main Kitchen, Admiral Catering and The Tacobar are all hiring.

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