COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - While more access to vaccines is a key ingredient in helping businesses like restaurants return to normal, there are other factors.
Some restaurants in Columbus are still struggling with keeping staff. Whether it’s fear of getting coronavirus on the job or not wanting to work, it’s an issue even a year later.
“We literally have had employees that have told us, ‘I don’t want to work anymore, I’m just going to go home and collect unemployment. The first time when they shut us down for three weeks and we were forced to let go of our waiting staff, we lost everybody,” said Rodrigo Sardinas with Lemongrass Thai and Sushi.
Sardinas said says their business sees a lot of take-out, but not many people dining in. But fewer tables translates to fewer tips for servers - leading them to find work elsewhere.
“You have servers that want to work, but they make their money off of tips. So, if we don’t have enough dine-in customers, there’s really no encouragement for them to come and work this kind of job,” said Sardinas.
Scott Ressmeyer, owner of Country’s BBQ North, said many Columbus restaurants, including his own, have had the same issue.
“The benefit of stimulus checks, which is helping a lot of families. But then, on the other hand, it does keep people from going out and getting employment,” said Ressmeyer.
Barberitos in Uptown normally sees college students from Columbus State University applying to work at their restaurant, but it’s been significantly fewer since the pandemic.
A lot of people aren’t actually back in the dorms or on campus. A lot of them are taking classes online - so I haven’t had people coming in and applying,” said Savannah Willett, manager at Barberitos.
For those who stayed, they said it’s out of loyalty and love for their business.
“It is about the money because it is a job - but at the same time, we know we’re gonna have a good night, we’re gonna use teamwork and every day is just a good day,” said Kaitlin Hall, manager at Country’s BBQ North.
“This place has been through so much already, I couldn’t just abandon it. I love this place, it’s burrito wonderland,” said Willett.
The owners said they have been seeing in an increase in foot traffic, and they hope they’ll be able to continue retain and recruit employees going forward.