Restaurants still struggle with workforce
AREA — Many restaurants across Iowa report finding qualified workforce continues to stifle recovery, according to survey data from the Iowa Restaurant Association.
Area restaurants continue to have staffing issues, including Grace on Main in Elk Horn. Owners Michael and Illee Muller made a plea on social media two weeks ago, posting the open positions they have at their restaurant.
The Mullers have received several applications as a result, and are hoping to fill the vacancies soon.
“We have received over 12 applications, however, one did not show for an interview, and several have been non-responsive,” Illee said.
“This is a complex issue for us,” she continued. “We have a limited pool of potential employees in our rural communities; not to mention the economic issues, which affect potential employees’ ability to commute distances for employment. With school starting, we will be losing three staff members. We have struggled with finding an additional line cook for some time now. Another issue we struggle with is finding staff that are consistently available.”
In addition to staffing problems, they are also struggling with the continuous increase of food costs and supply issues. Muller admits that restaurant work can be difficult. “Restaurant work is taxing, it’s not for the faint at heart.”
“We truly appreciate our community supporting us and patronizing our restaurant, by doing so they are keep jobs local and supporting our rural communities,” Muller said.
“We love what we do and we want to continue to serve our community and to do that, we need qualified and reliable staff.”
Richard Buman, owner of Harlan’s Victoria Station is in a similar predicament.
“We’re always looking for cooks, Buman said. “A recent search netted us very few candidates, and none that filled our needs. We paid for promoted job listings and newspaper ads, but got no inquiries from them. It would seem that very few are looking for work. We have regular inquiries from students, which is great - but there’s also always a need for daytime availability.”
Victoria Station has been able to maintain the same hours and menu options, Buman said.
“We have not made any changes at this point due to staffing,” he said. However, he said they continue to consider different ways to balance staffing issues.
“Iowa has a very low unemployment rate - which is generally a good thing. But I think that statistic is skewed by a large number of people who have left the worker pool for reasons other than retirement, he said.”
Association survey results:
Finding qualified workforce continues to stifle recovery for many Iowa restaurants and bars, according to survey data from the Iowa Restaurant Association. Over half of respondents (52%) ranked finding qualified workforce as their greatest challenge—with more than one third operating 30% below their needed staffing levels.
“We are in uncharted waters as an industry,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association. “We can’t find staff at the same time the industry is facing simultaneous 15% increases in the cost of labor and the cost of goods. Menu prices can’t be raised high enough or fast enough to keep up. There’s a threshold for what people will pay for a sandwich or pizza.”