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Hospitality industry workers, Ohio Restaurant Association explains why people aren’t returning to the workforce

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 8:30 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -As we reopen and attempt to dig out of the pandemic and catastrophic losses for the hospitality industry, restaurant owners and managers are still struggling to get back in the black because of understaffing.

“Really the hardest thing is, we’re just not getting anybody that’s applying,” said Matt Mytro, Chef and Partner at Flour in Moreland Hills.

He says they’re 30% to 40% short on staff right now.

“I’ve been bussing tables. I pulled myself from the kitchen and I’m helping out front of the house,” Mytro said.

Ohio Restaurant Association President, John Barker says the industry-wide staffing problem is three-fold.

“There’s a legitimate percent of people that just can’t go back until we get far enough along with COVID that we can say, ‘COVID’s not an issue,’” said Barker.

According to Barker a lot of people left the industry for good after being furloughed or laid off, so the pool of candidates is further reduced.

“I think there’s a lot of negative energy about the restaurant business,” said Mytro.

“The third issue, and this is no longer an antidote, people are making more money on unemployment and stimulus right now, than they would be working. So their incentive to come back to work is very low,” said Barker.

The ORA has communicated with Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown, hoping to get action for their members and get people back to work.

Barker is hopeful that there will be a wave of people returning to the workforce when the extended unemployment runs out after September.

“The problem is, we need people before the fall,” he said.

Alaina O’Neill was furloughed, then laid off as the pastry chef and kitchen manager at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

She is reluctant to return to the workforce right now.

“Truly I am more valuable at home. I have a toddler and my partner’s mother and father both live with us and they both have terminal cancer,” she said.

Meanwhile Mytro is worried burn out among their existing staff.

“I’m asking these guys to work six days. Yeah, they’re making more money but they’re working more hours, the pressure is on,” he said.

Pandemic-driven changes are still at play, and they’re still in survival mode.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been because you’ve got to imagine, take out is still a big part of our business,” said Mytro.

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