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Georgia restaurants struggling with staffing amid worker shortage

Restaurants across metro Atlanta are short-staffed and struggling to find workers 18-months into the pandemic.

ATLANTA — From 'now hiring' signs to ads on job boards, Georgia restaurants are desperate for help.

"It becomes a situation where every day it's like -- the old issues are the same but then there are new issues too," said Federico Castellucci, CEO of Castellucci Hospitality Group.

Castellucci runs seven restaurants across metro Atlanta. Thankfully, he has not been forced to close any of them down, but said he knows other restaurants haven't been so lucky.

"I had a friend the other day who showed up to his restaurant and it was literally closed because no one showed up to work," he said.

"Trust me, there is not a restaurant in the state of Georgia that is running shorthanded purposely," said Karen Bremer, head of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Extra federal unemployment COVID relief benefits for Georgians ended months ago and many business owners hoped that would reignite the workforce.

A former server at Alma Cocina said fear of the virus is still a driving factor for why people are leaving the service industry.

"I'm serving in there. We don't know if people are coming in with the virus. Also, your money is not coming in, so how are you going to pay the bills?" she said.

Alan LeBlanc, head of Brewed to Serve restaurant group, owns three businesses in metro Atlanta.

"We have enough employees to operate two of our three restaurants," he said. 

LeBlanc's Max Lager's restaurant took a temporary hit.

"It could be a weekend where the weather's nice and five people don't show up. It's a combination of, 'Oh it's my COVID test' or 'Oh I'm not feeling well'," he said.

An added challenge, 70% of all servers in the United States are women according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Several recent surveys have shown working moms struggling to balance work and family as schools pivot back and forth between virtual and in-person learning due to COVID outbreaks.

Bremer said change is the only thing that has remained constant for Georgia restaurants.

"Them being limited distance and then not limiting distance. Then being told everything's fine if people are vaccinated and don't have to wear a mask — now we're pivoting yet one more time," she said.