Help Wanted: Restaurants struggle to survive staffing shortages

Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 6:05 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A sweet escape-- that’s what Chef’s Corner bakery and restaurant in Williston is known for.

“People that come into Chef’s Corner, they come in because they are either meeting with friends, they’re hungry, they’re sad, they want to talk, they want to laugh. It’s like therapy,” co-owner and founder Jozef Harrewyn said.

But it hasn’t all been raspberry truffles and vanilla meringue.

“In 25 years, I’ve never seen-- neither of us has seen the employment situation so critical,” Harrewyn said.

They’ve had ads for employment running on Indeed and Craigslist, but their hiring progress is pretty much...

“Non-existent, really,” business partner Scott Sorrell laughed, giving a thumbs down. “Unfortunately.”

They’re not the only ones.

“We’ve tried to put out ads every single week for the positions that we have available here,” said Kevin Donaldson, the general manager at Pizza 44 in Burlington.

Donaldson says they get maybe a few applicants a week.

“Sometimes five or six we’ll reach out to them, we’ll reach out to them, and perhaps get one response back,” he said.

Donaldson says many restaurants in our area are dealing with the same struggles.

These staffing shortages are impacting the way they run their business.

“Unfortunately, caused a lot of restaurants in the area to reduce hours and close certain days of the week,” Donaldson said.

“We say to the customers, ‘Thank you for coming in.’ ‘No, thank you for being open,’ Years ago you wouldn’t have heard that,” Harrewyn said.

Sorrell says they’ve streamlined the menu so they don’t need any kitchen help right now.

“Where we’re really hurting the most is probably in our server-counter help right now,” Harrewyn said.

“We have every position available,” Donaldson said.

Chef’s Corner Manager Mike Link used to work at a different restaurant as a kitchen manager.

“I wanted to get out of the kitchen and in the front. Be seen more I guess. I like the attention,” Link said.

He says if you’re thinking about changing jobs, now is the time.

“Just go out there and start applying to places,” Link said. “I’m sure you’ll hear a call back from someone.”

His favorite part of the job?

“Seeing all the regulars every day and making them happy with food,” Link said.

The hours aren’t bad either.

“Daytime is definitely a benefit that I like. Instead of working nights,” he said.

The starting rate for most positions is $17 an hour.

As far as experience goes...

“You don’t need a 10-year diploma to work at Chef’s Corner, you need a good attitude,” Harrewyn said.

At the end of the day…

“I believe all restaurants are just working so hard,” Donaldson said. “Our main goals are to keep our restaurants healthy and safe for our employees and customers.”

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