Staffing shortages lead some Rochester restaurants to limit hours, close on certain days

Food and Drink

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dining out at your favorite local restaurant might not be as easy at it used to be. Staffing shortages are making it harder for businesses to keep their doors open as often as they used to. 

Native Restaurant in Downtown Rochester has had to close for lunch, on Sunday’s and Monday’s, and has had to limit hours on the weekend due to staffing shortages. 

“I’d rather not serve customers than serve customers poorly and that’s the position we are in right now,” said Ross Mueller, Owner of Mueller Restaurant Group, Label 7 and Native.

Mueller has had to make a lot of changes at Native due to not enough employees, including only staying open five days a week. 

“We’re running out of things because we’re closed for these days now, so you can only order a certain amount of things because you don’t want food to go bad over the weekend,” Mueller said.”

So why are restaurants having a hard time filling positions? 

Economics experts point to a lot of reasons why workers aren’t returning to work yet, such as fear of personal health, child care responsibilities, as well as increased unemployment benefits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

‘The maximum that someone could get right now if you made $60, $70, $80, $100-thousand a year and all of a sudden you’re unemployed, you’re probably getting at most, $504 a week,” said Jarrett Felton, the Managing Director and Founder of Invessent Wealth Management. 

Add to that $504, the extra $300 a week from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan. 

“So in the course of a month, people are making $3,216 if we are being really specific. And for most people that can end up not being taxable,” Felton said. 

While there are many factors into why someone might not apply for a job, unemployment payments do play a part.  

“This allows a lot of people, particularly people on the lower end of the wage spectrum, to say, ‘hey I am making almost as much, I can stay at home, I can maybe look after my kids, supervisor their remote learning and the risk of catching COVID is zero if I stay at home,’” said Amit Batabyal, a Arthur J. Gosnell Professor of Economics at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

These shortages can impact consumers too.

“If you are having to raise the salaries of workers to actually get them to apply and get these jobs, then that increases the cost of restaurant workers, all else being equal,” Batabyal said. “If their costs are going to go up, what you’re going to see is some of these costs being passed onto consumers or customers at restaurants.”

Economic experts say it’s important that during this time companies are providing benefits to employees who are choosing to work. 

“Maybe there a things you can do for people that don’t necessarily involve money but maybe there’s fringe benefit, or an extra bell or a whistle,” Felton said.

Felton recommends additional benefits like free parking, a catered lunch once a week, or allowing staff to bring their kids to work once in a while. 

Batabyal said it’s also important employers recognize those who are working.

“Workers who do choose to work are going to find that their benefits are more generous. You might see things like singing bonuses, bonuses just to show up and schedule an interview, extra pay to work longer hours than they otherwise would have,” Batabyal said. 

President Joe Biden said last week that people collecting unemployment benefits under the American Rescue Plan must accept “suitable” employment when offered or lose their benefits. 

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