Restaurants scramble to find workers as businesses reopen


MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KTVI) – Good help is hard to find, especially for restaurant and business owners during the pandemic.

It helps that it’s a family affair for Steve Lauck, his wife, and two sons at Vivola Express in Maryland Heights, Missouri.

“Having a family operation, Mom and Pop-type situation, we’re blessed with that because we always have four employees at least,” said Lauck, Vivola Express owner. “If it wasn’t for our two sons working for us, I don’t know what we would do.”

It’s a sign of modern times.

As more people get vaccinated and begin heading back to their favorite spots, the keyword coming out of this pandemic is patience. George Mahe researched the issue facing many as dining begins to open back up in time for summer.

“A lot of these guys are working more hours and more shifts,” said George Mahe, dining editor for St. Louis Magazine. “A lot of them are holding job fairs and giving all kinds of bonuses after 60 days or 90 days. They’re giving bonuses to their existing workers to have their friends come in and give them bonuses again if their friends come in so it’s all over the board.”

Across St. Louis, “Help Wanted” signs aren’t just in restaurant windows but across multiple industries. In the Central West End, 12 restaurants, as well as other businesses, are hosting a job fair in the area next week.

“Business is strong,” said Stephen Gontram, owner of Five Star Burgers. “Even at 50%, and it’s getting stronger and stronger. I don’t want to say I’m not looking forward to the days of 100%. I am. But right now, we are looking for people, cause the staff we had, which is the same staff we had a month or two ago, is … we’re tired and working long hours. As business ramps up, we desperately need more people to serve, to bus, to host, to cook, everything.”

In the meantime, as more people get vaccinated and capacity levels continue to change at restaurants along with streamlined menus and hours, patrons will have to be patient.

“But the one good thing I will say is if you want to look on the positive side is business is coming back,” Lauck said. “Hopefully, the workers will, too.”

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