Hiring ahead of the holidays: Why restaurants are still struggling to staff up

Business

ZipRecruiter, Yelp team up to help Texas restaurants sweeten the pot

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Local businesses are struggling to staff up as demand picks up and is expected to keep increasing for the holidays.

Online job marketplace, ZipRecruiter, says the number of active job postings online in the Austin-Round Rock metro area increased by 106% from right before the pandemic in February 2020 to September 2021.

But they say the labor force is smaller by 3 million workers than it was before COVID-19.

It’s why the owners of Bird Bird Biscuit are operating on limited hours at their new location on West Koenig Lane.

“We eventually want to have night service as well, but we just don’t, we don’t have the people for it right now,” co-owner Brian Batch explained.

They’ve streamlined their operations and decided to keep indoor dining areas closed.

“Our whole business model changed. We’ve kind of turned to the window model where you come, you place your order online beforehand or at the kiosk,” Batch said.

He says customers have been receptive, and business has been climbing.

Julia Pollack, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, says that’s a national trend. Restaurants like Bird Bird Biscuit are seeing an increase in customer demand across the country but can’t fully take advantage of that growth because of the continued labor shortage.

“When you don’t have enough workers on staff, there are delays. Companies are having to reduce hours. They’re having to limit the numbers of goods and services they provide and focus on their strengths — and all of that means lost opportunities for for growth,” Pollack said.

It’s why she says many restaurants and retailers are offering signing bonuses and wage increases.

Amazon announced Monday it’s hiring more than 3,000 workers in the Austin area for seasonal jobs with sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000.

Part of the reason behind labor challenges in retail and restaurants is prospective employees have different standards. Pollak says more than half of active job seekers on ZipRecruiter want to work remotely.

That’s harder to do in the food industry, and to help out Texas restaurants ahead of the holidays, ZipRecruiter and Yelp are partnering up for “Yelp for Help Wanted.”

Restaurants get a free two-week period to post jobs on ziprecruiter.com/yelp. It started Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 26.

They’re also sweetening the pot for job applicants. Fifty will be chosen to win a $500 American Express gift card once they submit proof they applied to a locally-owned, independent business.

“This is going to be a tricky challenge for a while, and the employers who do everything right are going to have an advantage in the war for talent,” Pollak said.

It’s something Batch may look into; he needs 10 to 15 more employees.

“We just want to keep pushing forward, and hopefully, with that mentality, we can just continue to make progress,” he said.

Restaurant owners and job seekers can find out more about Yelp for Help Wanted here.

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