Local restaurant owners struggle to find workers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While the latest U.S. job report shows things are looking up, some restaurant owners in the Mid-South say they are struggling to attract workers.

Between people nervous about catching COVID, to childcare struggles and generous unemployment benefits offered to those staying at home, many people are deciding to not go back to work.

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“I had to work four shifts by myself last week as I was waiting for someone to come on,” Rizzo’s restaurant owner Michael Patrick said.

It’s a new challenge that restaurant owners like Patrick are facing.

More customers coming back in the doors, but not enough staff to feed all their hungry customers.

“We are seeing it across the board in Memphis,” he said. “It’s been very hard. I think part of that is the extended benefits in unemployment.”

Patrick said he’s down to only four servers.

“I’ve got servers working doubles and working nights. I can’t work my four servers five doubles a week,” he said.

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Finding people to fill the open positions hasn’t been easy.

“I’ve been holding onto a spot or two for some people who have worked for me for years to come back to, and they just haven’t come back,” Patrick said.

Right now, Rizzo’s is only open for dinner and weekend brunch.

Patrick said he’s hoping to fill at least five more positions before re-opening for lunch.

In the meantime, he’s asking his customers for patience.

“As a general consensus, just be patient with us. We’re trying our best,” Patrick said.

It’s not just the restaurant industry struggling to find workers.

CEO of Memphis tourism Kevin Kane said it’s the same story for the tourism and hospitality industry.

He also cited the generous unemployment benefits as a reason many are choosing not to return to work.