SEATTLE — On June 30, Washington will fully reopen.
While this is good news for restaurants, they’re facing a new challenge: hiring people to fill vacant jobs.
According to the Washington Hospitality Association, the restaurant industry in Washington is 100,000 workers short of what it was pre-pandemic.
As restaurant owners start planning for a full reopening, they’re looking to hire a full staff of employees again, but many can’t find enough people.
The hospitality association said there are a few reasons this is happening.
First, many restaurant employees left the industry for steadier careers after being laid off at the start of the pandemic. Some moved to grocery stores, for example.
Also, some restaurant workers picked up and moved to other states where COVID-19 restrictions weren’t as tight, and they could find work.
On top is this, many workers just lost trust in the job security of the restaurant industry.
“A lot of people are saying, 'I don't want to come back to work if the (restaurant) is going to lay me off again in two weeks,'" said Anthony Anton, president and CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. "The idea that I finally have security, I can have a plan and then I'm going to let go of the rail to then have to spend another three months getting back into the system. You can understand well, why our workforce, our team members would be nervous about making that commitment."
Even after that June 30 reopening date, Anton doesn’t think the staffing shortage will disappear.
“There'll be a readjustment," he said. "So, some of our workforce that left for grocery that was hiring and hopefully misses us – we miss them – will be willing to come back to hospitality, but that's going to take a while for those business levels to adjust and the workforce to adjust with those."