Restaurants have struggled through each stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. They first had to adapt to delivery services. Then, they created plans for outdoor seating and reimagined table layouts for indoor dining.

Now that things are reopening, many are facing employee shortages. In December, the New York State Restaurant Association said almost 90% of eateries had below normal staffing levels.

What You Need To Know

  • In December, the New York State restaurant association said almost 90% of eateries had below normal staffing levels

  • Slidin' Dirty is offering employees health benefits, paid time off and a 401K match

  • The industry is hoping to make a comeback

Some employees say they’re burnt out. Others worry about their health working on the front lines. There are also those who don’t think the industry pays enough.

In Troy, Slidin’ Dirty has gone through each of these stages. Jill Hart, the catering director, has been working as pretty much everything but because most large gatherings have been postponed. When Spectrum News caught up with her, she was serving as bartender.

“I’d like to be hopeful and think that it’s all going to work out, and eventually people will get to where they need to be to enter the workforce again,” says Hart.

Hart has seen the problem on both ends, as both employer and employee. To help attract more customers, the business is offering something restaurant workers have long been asking for: health benefits, paid vacation and sick time, and a 401K match.

But still, people aren’t rushing to apply.

“Going years and years without health insurance, I kind of thought that, once it was offered to me, I jumped on it. So I just figured everyone would kind of follow suit,” says Hart.

Hart says she understands why people are hesitant, pointing to child care problems and the mental toll the pandemic has taken. While things are difficult, she’s optimistic the industry will make a comeback.

“Hopefully fall, that will be our turnaround, and we’re going to get through this,” says Hart. “It’s a tough industry.”