Wisconsin Restaurant Association on staff shortages

Wisconsin Restaurant Association on staff shortages
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 4:55 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Restaurant Association says a July report shows the number of restaurant jobs are back up to 220,000 in the state. Which is the same amount of jobs from before the pandemic. But President and CEO of the WRA says that doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate.

“There are some restaurants that are struggling. There are others that are not. Part of that has to do with reputation and the culture in which these restaurants operate. But we just know on a macro level that pre-covid restaurants were struggling to get get the staff that they needed”, says Kristine Hillmer.

But Hillmer says Eau Claire has a special advantage that not every city has.

“You do have a major university in your town. So we do see that that is an advantage that you’ve got those students coming back and now is the time they’ve settled into their classes and now they’re looking for some of those jobs. The restaurant industry has great family sustaining jobs and it has great part time as well as full time options”, says Hillmer.

James Jerulle, owner of Sammy’s Pizza in Eau Claire says they continue to struggle with staffing.

“We’re having our usual seasonal changeover and we lost a couple of longtime employees just due to them moving to different parts of the country. And so this year has been exceptionally challenging for staffing not only servers, but cooks and just people in general”, says Jerulle.

Hillmer says restaurants have adjusted to help with this problem.

“What you’re then seeing is strategies that restaurants employ, including capacity restrictions and hours that they operate the meal services, but they also are looking at automation as another way to enhance what they can provide. So you may see a lot of ordering by kiosks or ordering by QR codes. You’re also going to see drive thru as an option”,

Hillmer adds she doesn’t expect this problem to go away anytime soon.