Inside Ambition Coffee and Eatery on a rainy Thursday morning, owner Marc Renson is whipping up some scrambled eggs for the morning rush. He has been cooking meals at the Schenectady café for 21 years.

Renson says the place is a combination of all his favorites: food, music and Hollywood. And over the last two decades, it has certainly seen that.

“This little grill here has served Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, the Cake Boss [Buddy Valastro], Alton Brown, George Hamilton, Kristin Chenoweth, Pete Seeger,” said Renson, standing in his kitchen. “I mean, there have been so many entertainers who have come through this restaurant.”

But like most businesses, the last year it hasn’t been very glamorous. He’s faced adversities like pandemic restrictions resulting in an inconsistent flow of customers. However, with more and more diners returning, Renson is facing a new obstacle: finding workers.

What You Need To Know

  • Here in the Capital Region and across the country, restaurant owners are struggling to fill job openings

  • The New York State Restaurant Association says several reasons could be linked to this issue

  • Statewide, dining restrictions ease later this month

“It’s tough on all of us, because we’re short staffed, so we’re running around a little more than we’d like to,” Renson said. “But like anything else, you get the job done.”

And he isn’t alone. Nationwide, restaurants are struggling to fill their openings. This comes with New York’s hospitality industry still seeing 26% fewer employees in March of this year compared to last year, according to the New York State Restaurant Association.

“They’re having a lot of trouble getting people to interview,” said Melissa Fleischut, New York State Restaurant Association President & CEO. “And if they can get them to interview, they don’t get them to show up once they hire them.”

She says there are a few theories for the smaller pool of candidates: people completely leaving the hospitality industry, older Americans no longer seeking part time work, childcare challenges, and the current unemployment benefits.

“It seems like it’s not even just restaurants; it’s, in general, there is a huge worker shortage right now, and really a lot of demand to try and get people back into their jobs,” Fleischut said.

She says they’re working with the state department of labor to get any candidates they’re aware of into their job board. Fleischut also reminds everyone to be kind and be patient as restaurants tackle these obstacles.

Renson is planning to open a new space this month which will allow his café to expand. He’s hoping to add two more employees before this happens. Renson says he can’t offer benefits like the chain businesses, but he is paying above minimum wage. Plus, there’s always a chance a celebrity may stroll in.

“When I leave, this flattop is coming with me, because this is where all the memories are, right here,” Renson said. “This flattop served all those entertainers and people for 21 years, or however long I’m going to be here for.”