Restaurants in desperate need of workers

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 9:34 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - A shortage of workers is causing restaurants to continue to struggle to serve customers across the state.

Despite that, Wisconsin is sitting at just a 3.8% unemployment rate.

The pandemic caused many restaurants to close their doors permanently or partially.

In the meantime, former employees found other jobs.

“Restaurants are the second largest sector of employment in the state,” Wisconsin Restaurants Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer said.

Hillmer said while people were out of work during closures, many staff left the restaurant business for others.

Now that restaurants are trying to climb back, the help wanted signs aren’t coming down.

“If restaurants are having a hard time, that’s really going to harden the economic recovery that we need to happen not only in the state but also nationally,” Hillmer said.

Hillmer said the worker shortage is also caused by the extra $300 in unemployment from the cares act, giving people less incentive to get out and work.

Many parents are also not encouraging their teenagers to get jobs, which Hillmer said can’t continue.

“Parents, if you’ve got teenagers, restaurants are a great place to have that first job, a little bit of pocket change, little more responsibility,” Hillmer said.

She said restaurants are key to successful communities, and the effects are real. Angelo’s Pizza in Wausau announced Monday, April 26 they’re reducing hours and closing their dining room for the summer due to worker shortages.

“This is a time where businesses and industry really have to look inward and say ‘what can we do, what should we be doing different,’” Wausau Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Eckmann said.

Eckmann said the pandemic has changed people’s lifestyles, he believes Wausau is taking the right steps to become a more vibrant community.

He hopes in turn, a more inclusive community will lead to more employees at Wausau businesses.

“People today, it’s live first, work second. Having that place to live and then find a job, that’s what we have to do,” Eckmann said.

Hillmer also said restaurants need to have a big summer in order to make it through the fall and winter. If not, she expects even more restaurant closures to come.

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