Restaurateurs Can't Find Hires As Unemployment, Stimulus Checks Keep Workers Home

Finding enough workers to fill jobs is proving to be a challenge for some local restaurant owners.

Video Transcript

- A big surprise in the job market tonight. The Labor Department says hiring surged across the US in March, employers adding 916,000 jobs, many of those in the hospitality sector, as businesses, like restaurants, reopen. But finding enough workers to fill those jobs is proving to be a challenge for some local restaurant owners. CBS2's [INAUDIBLE] found out what's behind the dining dilemma.

- What is it like, opening a new restaurant as the pandemic drags on? Steven Hartenstein will tell you.

STEVEN HARTESTEIN: Exciting, scary, and brutal.

- He is the managing partner of Lucca Osteria & Bar, opening in Oak Brook in May. He has 100 jobs to fill, but at a Friday hiring event, we only saw a few people trickle in. It is far from the large pool of laid-off restaurant staff he expected.

STEVEN HARTESTEIN: And now that so many people are getting vaccinated and feeling more safe, we thought, fantastic, but it's not that way at all.

- You might think people in the industry would be clamoring to get their jobs back, but restaurant tours tell us that is not the case. Many people have left the industry or they found new ways to cover those bills.

STEVEN HARTESTEIN: The unemployment checks and the stimulus checks are keeping people at home.

- With the state's dining capacity at 25% and Chicago at 50, staying healthy also remains a major concern.

TEOFILO REYES: Part of it is the vaccine, for sure. I think that will make a lot of people much more comfortable to go to work that are reticent.

- Dr. Teofilo Reyes is with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which represents restaurant staff in Chicago and nationwide.

TEOFILO REYES: You're coming in to work, you're trying to serve people food. And on top of that, you're supposed to be policing their behavior with the mask-wearing and then depending on them for tips afterwards. And so it's really a challenging and uncomfortable situation.

- So when will employees come back? When they're ready. In the meantime, Hartenstein will do what it takes to open Lucca's doors. In an industry that's faced so many hurdles, what's one more?

STEVEN HARTESTEIN: We're going to get people in some way, somehow. You know, we are-- we're networking every way we can. And the word of mouth will happen.

- In Oak Brook, [INAUDIBLE], CBS2 News.