Kalamazoo Restaurant Facing New Problem: A Lack of Employees
As restrictions lift, a local restaurant is facing a new problem: A lack of employees.
This was reported by WWMT News Channel 3 and my first reaction was one of surprise. At least at first. After all, aren't people ready to get back to work and make money? But, that's an oversimplification.
In an interview with WWMT, 600 Kitchen & Bar, located in downtown Kalamazoo, said that while they're getting more business they're having trouble hiring staff. In a quote from executive chef Jason McClellan he said,
It’s been extremely challenging to get qualified applicants in and with restaurants that are still open were kind of going against each other.
Which implies that other restaurants may also be having trouble finding staff. So, what happened?
Well, plain and simple, Covid-19 happened.
Covid's Impact on the Restaurant Industry
The restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit industry through the pandemic. According to statista.com, food service establishments lost $130 billion in sales, 2.1 million jobs were lost, and 110,000 restaurants closed permanently.
Now, I can't speak for Michigan's unemployment but in Florida it was a nightmare. Many of those who were let go never saw a single check from the unemployment office. Including myself. After losing my full-time job I picked up a part-time job at a local restaurant to try to make ends meet. Most days I ended up with maybe $50. It was enough to make me question every decision in my life.
With that being said, it's not hard to imagine why so many people have turned their backs on the industry. People had to survive.
Restaurants and bars have always felt like a constant. Something I could always return to if everything else failed. After all, people always want to eat and drink, right? The pandemic exposed a vulnerability and had a huge impact on the industry. In fact, it may impact how restaurants operate from here on out especially since online food delivery grew to $45 billion last year alone. Many restaurants may forever remain a solo kitchen that only does delivery...who knows?
However, I whole-heartedly believe that people still crave the experience of leaving the home and enjoying dishes prepared, sometimes expertly, by someone else. Especially after being cooped up since March of last year.
If you're in need of a culinary job, either front or back of house, 600 Kitchen & Bar is hiring. You can find more details here.