ATLANTA — For the metro Atlanta and Georgia restaurant industry, the COVID-19 pandemic brought an economic disaster. Thousands of restaurants closed and almost 38,000 workers lost their jobs in the past year.
Now, more than a year later, many restaurants are reopening but scrambling to fill open positions.
It’s an almost impossible task.
Signs and ads are everywhere as restaurants seek to hire workers. But there is little incentive, said George Andrews, director of Unity National Bank.
“The federal government, with its unemployment compensation and state government combined makes it attractive not to work,” he said.
The Georgia Restaurant Association says there are still 50,000 to 70,000 restaurant jobs waiting to be filled.
One of the local eateries feeling the recruiting pinch is The Beautiful Restaurant that's been business for almost 45 years in South Atlanta.
They closed for six months during the pandemic, but when they reopened, Lucy Sims, the restaurant's Chief Operating Officer, got right on it.
“We sent out invite letters for those associates who were laid off because of our closure and some never responded,” she said.
And Beautiful is not alone.
Marcus Sabir, better known as Big Daddy with three restaurants in South Atlanta, said they're in need of 12 workers and word of mouth has sure help him recruit.
“I had a young lady come into the restaurant and I asked if she was looking for a job and she said yes. She lived in a group home behind the restaurant, and she went back and told some other girls and two more came over, filled out applications and I put all three to work," Sabir said. “It makes me feel good that I can help somebody in this community. Help somebody that needed help, and I told them I will teach them how to work and apply for jobs anywhere."
And restaurant employee and 8-year veteran Courtney Sims, who's now back to work, has some good advice for job seekers.
“Getting out there now and getting a job yearning for help. Now is the best time to do it," said Sims. "Because you don’t want to wait until the last minute when unemployment cuts you off and then you say you don’t know what to do now.”
And she might be right. Waiting until your unemployment runs out could be a risky move and too late. Applying for jobs now could lead to more available options for you to choose from, while waiting till the last minute could mean that you might end up competing with more job seekers whose benefits are also running out.