HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — Certain industries are still experiencing a nationwide labor shortage stemming from the pandemic with the restaurant industry topping the list. According to the National Restaurant Association, 58% of operators say recruiting and retaining employees is the biggest issue they continue to face.

Owner of Beale’s Texas BBQ Brett Beale is feeling the impact, saying it is an all-hands-on-deck situation. “I am the dishwasher. I take out trash. I take orders. As you see, I cook, prepare food. I do everything here,” he said.

Ever since the pandemic began, Beale’s and most restaurants in Southern California, have been experiencing a labor shortage. At first, Beale said employees stayed home due to fear of catching COVID-19, but even two years later, it’s hard to hire and even keep good staff.

“The employment pool shrank. I am here everyday, seven days a week. We would like to increase hours to keep up with demand, but being short-staffed makes it difficult,” Beale said.

According to the National Restaurant Association, full-service restaurant staffing suffered the most job losses in the first few months of the pandemic and, as of May 2022, staffing levels are still below pre-pandemic numbers.

Beale feels this could be due to the unemployment government assistance or even the difficulty of keeping up with wages that larger corporations could offer.

“It is hard to compete against larger businesses or chains or everything of that nature,” he said. “When you have that situation, it’s difficult, so our pool shrank even more.”

This is why any help is appreciated. Beale received a $3,000 grant from the California Restaurant Foundation’s Restaurants Care Resilience Fund in partnership with state energy companies and Wells Fargo. The grant also went to 162 other SoCal restaurants with less than three locations that do not make more than $3 million. Wells Fargo also provides training and other services to help these businesses improve long term.  

Beale said he used this assistance to fix equipment and give bonuses to the staff.

“You can say ‘thank you,’ but let’s face facts, you give somebody more money and say, ‘Hey, this is what I can offer you right now,’ I just want to give back whatever I can,” Beale said.

Manager Roshawn Lacy, who said he has been a bartender, host, waiter, cook and more, received this bonus. He asked whether it was really work when you were doing what you love? But he said he appreciates any extra incentive.

“I am blessed and grateful for that. We have a dedicated, small team here. To get that extra, I am sure it boosted their morale. It made them, maybe even work even harder, from good to great,” Lacy said.

While Joblist reports that 38% of former restaurant workers say they will not return to the hospitality industry, Beale hopes he can hire more employees soon.

“Please be patient. It is very challenging,” Beale said.