Restaurants fill staff shortage in Somerset County

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Many restaurants in Somerset County are being forced to close – or close early – because they can’t find enough workers. Other restaurants have found ways to keep their employees.

Restaurant employees wanted

Fox’s Pizza in Somerset announced last month that its location would close. The restaurant’s Facebook page cited staff shortages, rising prices and product issues as the main reasons for the closure.

“It is with great sadness that we say this, but today is our last day of business,” the December 23 post said.

“With staff shortages, rising prices and product issues, it has become (too) difficult to stay operational. Our surrounding sites will still be able to meet the needs of those of you who wish to receive our product. In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and keep your eyes peeled for something new coming to the site.”

A few days later, on December 27, the Facebook page changed its name to “Somerset Skill Games” and announced that the pizzeria would now be a small gambling venue.

Also in Somerset, signs outside Taco Bell indicate that the location is sometimes closed due to a lack of staff. The fast food chain opened on this site less than a year ago.

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In Rockwood, the Rock City Cafe is also experiencing a staff shortage. Owner Stacey Coleman said the small business is doing well with the help of her family.

“We have posted many (ads) looking for kitchen help with no response,” she said in a written response to the Daily American.

“We are looking to hire at least one part-time kitchen helper at this time and to apply, all you have to do is stop by Rock City and fill out an application. Our pay rate is discussed during the interview based on experience.”

The cafe sells wings, pizza, fries, and other foods from their location along Main Street in Rockwood. They also have live entertainment some nights.

“I think small businesses have had a tough job keeping their employees,” Coleman said. “At one time it was nice to work for a family business, but now big companies are able to pay more for employees, which puts small businesses in difficulty.

“As far as Rock City is concerned, we do our best to take care of our employees in every way possible and to the best that we can under the circumstances given to us.”

The big resignation

According to the US Department of Labor, the number of workers quitting their jobs hit a record high in November. The number of workers who resigned fell from 4.2 million to 4.5 million in October.

The hardest hit industries are restaurants, hotels, health services and trades.

Employers posted 10.6 million job openings. Yet nationally, there were 6.9 million unemployed Americans in November, which left 1.5 jobs for every unemployed person.

The trend of people quitting their jobs amid the pandemic has become known as “The Great Quit,” a term coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor and psychologist at Texas A&M University.

How do restaurants keep their staff?

At Tailgatez in Somerset, manager Tony Latuch said the popular bar/restaurant had been able to keep its 57 staff.

“We held up pretty well,” he said. “We now have good employees.

“At the beginning of the year (2021), yes, it was difficult. We have increased salaries and people are fine.”

He declined to say how much Tailgatez pays.

“We work with them and have given out little Christmas bonuses,” Latuch said. “We try to treat them well. We know how important they are.

“I think we haven’t had a lot of turnover lately. At the start of 2021 there was quite a bit, but with COVID it’s understandable.”

He said leaders are important to keep as they are difficult to replace.

“People can apply, but I think we have everyone we need for the kitchen,” he said. “That’s the main thing. That’s where we can’t afford rotation. Right now it’s good.”

“We have good employees and we are happy to have them.”

Follow Dylan Johnson on Twitter at @DADylanJohnson and on Facebook at facebook.com/DylanJohnsonDailyAmerican.

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