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Opinion: Restaurants are in an employment crisis

By Steve Coulter

Have you noticed all the help wanted signs lately? Just about every restaurant is short staffed and hiring for several or all positions.

A spokesperson for a national restaurant chain told me we are in an employment crisis. They said every restaurant is hiring and having problems finding workers. There is simply too many jobs to fill and not enough workers.

Steve Coulter, Co-Publisher

I recently went to Applebee’s and they only had one waitress for the whole restaurant. She was also the bartender that night. She said Applebee’s was really short on staff and needed help. I felt bad for her as she scrambled to serve the entire restaurant. She said to send people her way because they are hiring.

The worker shortage is happening in every state. Katie Button is the chef and co-owner of two restaurants in Asheville, N.C. She’s desperately searching for staff.

“I don’t think anything like this has ever happened. Everybody in the world is hiring at the same time,” she told The New York Times.

More people are getting vaccinated and diners are feeling increasingly more comfortable going back to restaurants. That means restaurants need more help right now.

I reached out to Jim Hopper, President of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association and he confirmed the extreme staffing shortage right here in Oklahoma.

“It’s absolutely an issue. It’s tough. Restaurants and hotels are having a very difficult time finding workers. It may be more pronounced in Oklahoma because in some instances Oklahoma is more open than other states are. Other states still have some capacity restrictions and have not been opened for dinning as long as Oklahoma has been,” said Hopper.

Many business owners believe the unemployment stimulus payments are keeping people at home and that’s taking a big toll on the available workforce.

“The unemployment stimulus payments that continue sometimes provide a disincentive for people to go back to work,” said Hopper.

He also believes some people are just done with the restaurant business. It’s been a very difficult 13 months for many of those workers. He believes some have decided to move on and do something else.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think it’s going to get better, but right now it’s pretty hard to hire people,” said Hopper.

The Oklahoma Restaurant Association is encouraging people to apply and help out the restaurant industry. They are directing people to a job bank at You can also find local employment opportunities in the classified section of this newspaper.

So now you know what’s going on when your favorite restaurant doesn’t have any help or you see all those help wanted signs placed everywhere.


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