Austin (KXAN) — New numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report show the United States has added 390,000 jobs in May, which is the 17th monthly gain in a row. With all of that job growth comes the need for workers, but the Central Texas restaurant industry is still in a desperate search for staff.
Over at The County Line, the flow of customers is steady and so is the work for everyone on their team.
“Our business is coming back and that’s how you get your employees back,” said Skeeter Miller, Owner/President of The County Line Inc.
Miller, like other local restaurant owners, is hiring. He tells KXAN he needs about 20 for his location near the lake. With summer just weeks away, he’s hopeful he’ll continue finding good help.
“I talk to parents all the time and they say, ‘My kids really need a job’ and I say, ‘Here’s my card,'” Miller explained. “They want to get a summer job, and I see a lot more applications coming in.”
He says he’s paying well over $15 an hour, and that’s the case for several local restaurants. But while wages are going up, many are noticing the number of employees is going down. KXAN did a quick ride down Barton Springs Road and nearly every restaurant had a ‘now hiring’ sign. Customers say they are noticing the impact.
“They usually say, ‘Excuse the wait time and be patient,'” said Mika Hishita.
“Almost every time I go, they always mention the amount of people and how they are understaffed,” Lainil Ortiz said.
Pre-pandemic, the Texas Restaurant Association says about 41% of restaurant operators listed a workforce shortage as their number one problem. Currently, that number is up to 76%.
“Employees are moving around a lot and they’re trying different restaurants and they’re changing employers at a higher rate than we would normally see,” said Joe Monastero, Chief Operating Officer of the Texas Restaurant Association.
The organization says career changes, burnout and wage increases are all factors.
“Even last year at ACL, we saw major groups of Austin-based employees just say, you know what, I’m going to go work ACL for a couple of weekends, make a lot of money and I know I’ll find something else afterward… so even if you don’t take me back, somebody will,” Monastero explained.
The Texas Restaurant Association says we are missing about 30,000 employees from the restaurant industry.
Restaurant and food service jobs make up about 10% of employment in our state, the Texas Restaurant Association projects that number to grow by 16% by 2030.