50,000 workers needed for Houston restaurants to return to normal

50,000?! "Everyone is hiring at the same time, and that is causing challenges in hiring," said Masroor Fatany of AYG Food Services.

Video Transcript

- Well, the road to recovery from the pandemic is still pretty bumpy for restaurant owners. Most have reopened their doors, but-- Jeff you've looked into it-- does it mean much?

- Yeah, it does and, you know, some restaurants are doing OK. Others are struggling to find workers to fill jobs. And it really is a big problem. Restaurant owners are trying to get back to business really all across our area.

MASROOR FATANY: Sales have definitely returned to pre-pandemic and this past week or last week, we have seen sales beat pre-pandemic levels.

- There is no doubt Masroor Fatany is happy to see business coming back to his five locations of The Halal Guys in the Houston area. The only dark cloud on the horizon is a potential delay in the opening of his latest venture Layne's Chicken Fingers. Plans are to open a new restaurant in the summer, but there's a problem-- a shortage of workers.

According to the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, the area needs about 50,000 workers to come back to the industry in order for restaurants to get back to pre-pandemic levels of operation. Fatany says new jobs that opened up in the delivery sector likely took away restaurant workers from the industry. And that's leading to a bump in starting pay for restaurant workers.

Fatany says he's increased pay by at least 10% for his new restaurant and he's still looking for nearly 50 employees.

MASROOR FATANY: It takes about a month to hire that many people and we've been looking for a month and we've only hired four. So something's different and we're feeling it.

- All right. So if you're interested in working at Layne's Chicken Fingers, the guys there were saying, please put our website on. We need 46 people right away. It may cause them to delay the opening of that restaurant out in the Katy area. So we've got a link to that on our website, abc13.com. You can get started there.

But it was interesting, a couple of weeks ago-- actually it was last week-- we were talking to the Restaurant Association, when we did a story on the Astros coming back and opening at Minute Maid Park. And so one of the calls I made was to the Restaurant Association because we wanted to know, hey, are restaurants going to be open, you know, before and after, right? And she answered my question, that they weren't sure. They'd see and kind of play it by ear.

But she said, you're missing the big story here. The big story is a lack of workers. So that's when we circled back and did this story. And again, about 50,000 workers needed for restaurants across the area.

- That is not a small number.

- It really isn't and a lot of those restaurant workers either maybe they don't feel comfortable coming back to work yet or maybe they've probably found something else to do. And so the delivery space really has sucked up a lot of employees. You know, Walmart started same-day delivery-- Amazon obviously doing delivery.

You've got, you know, so many different grocery stores doing delivery and different jobs in grocery stores. Those personal shoppers will go in and pull up your order for you and then you just come pick it up. So a lot of those employees probably have gone on to other industries. So it leaves the restaurant industry, service industry, really hurting for some employees. So they need a lot of people.

- Well, we just talked about this week how the hospitality business was hiring. They were looking for 1,000 positions.

- That's right.

- One of those main things was, you know, customer service but also food and beverage--

- That's right.

- That's why I imagine, like you're saying, a lot of people who lost their job in the restaurant business, maybe they're even reevaluating. This isn't as stable as I thought.

- That's right.

- And then jumped over into something that's similar but maybe something like hospitality and--

- Maybe a little less stressful, maybe a little more money, maybe better benefits. That's what-- to the point that, you know, the restaurant owner we were talking to was saying, you got bump up some pay, but that's not it. You got to have opportunities for advancement and that sort of thing too.

So, you know, I guess, in a way, it's an interesting problem to have. It does show that there is a road to recovery going on with the help wanted sign. You see it right there. It says now hiring. They are now hiring. Go to our website abc13.com if you're interested.

- And I wonder if the people ordering will slow down and then they'll want to go into the restaurants and then that would transition it back. I'm not sure because, to be honest, I don't know I'm ever going to shop at a grocery store again.

- You know, it's so much easier just to have to put the order in and have them delivered to the car.

- And I spend far less money because I'm not hungry while I'm there, buying things I don't need.

- Exactly. Exactly.

- We'll have to see. Thank you, Jeff.