IRVING, Texas — A large number of restaurants across Texas remain understaffed and job openings remain even after the state reopened back in March.
Federal unemployment payments will be coming to an end in June in our state, but some former service industry workers do not plan on going back at all, or at least until the industry improves.
During the pandemic the time away from the industry allowed some former restaurant workers to explore other avenues for income.
"I’m working from home for a mortgage industry,” said Michael Corral of Irving.
Corral worked as a server for many years and eventually became a restaurant manager until the pandemic brought his long track record in the service industry to a halt.
“Probably like seven or eight years, going on eight years working as a server in a restaurant. I had been a manager for almost a year as well,” he said.
The new career path is a lot different from what Corral was used to, but he says it has been very good to him so far. According to Corral it offers more stability than he ever had working in a restaurant.
"A guaranteed hourly rate in my opinion is a lot less stressful because you can kinda plan ahead, like this is how much I’ll be making in my next paycheck, and budget better. Whereas serving it’s kind of like we’ll see what I make,” said Corral.
He also says the mortgage industry offers him better incentives and promotion opportunities within a shorter amount of time.
Corral’s roommate Pete Gonzalez was also laid off from his server job in 2020. He says he had to begin collecting unemployment for the first time ever and the time away from his busy restaurant schedule gave him a chance to refocus on his education goals.
"Since the pandemic I’ve completed eight classes,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez says he is looking for work, but not in a restaurant because of the low pay.
“The wages - yes, $2.13 is nothing. You know how many times I’ve walked out of work with like $30 on an eight-hour shift?” he said, assuring that is why many people are leaving the industry.
He says the work environment is also keeping some people away.
“People don’t really see the things that go on behind those doors, the doors that go back and forth when you’re waiting for your food - you’re getting cussed at…,” he continued.
Another reason Gonzalez is not going back and says is making people look elsewhere is the way waiters and waitresses are treated by customers sometimes.
“The people, no respect, no respect whatsoever,” he said.
The college student also believes that restaurant and service industry workers should have received hazard pay for continuing to work during the height of the pandemic and jeopardizing their health.
Both Gonzalez and Corral say they would feel more encouraged to returning to a restaurant in the future if there was a notable difference in base pay, benefits and growth opportunities in the industry.
For now, Gonzalez is ready for a change and better lifestyle opportunities like his roommate.
"I’m definitely a lot more relaxed and happy with my new job,” Corral said of his job in the mortgage industry.