Restaurants can’t find workers as restrictions ease, hospitality CEO says

New York City restaurants are struggling to hire workers as Covid-19 restrictions are eased across the country and industry demand increases, restaurant owner Danny Meyer said Wednesday.

“Nobody can put all of their employees on hold, even if they wanted to because many of our employees have left town,” Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of Shake Shack, told Closing Bell. “Everyone hires at exactly the same time. I think it will take at least two or three months for supply and demand to catch up and reach equilibrium.”

The demand for restaurants has returned in New York City as more people are vaccinated. The rules on social distancing and wearing masks have also been relaxed as the number of new cases in the country continues to decline.

“The vaccination was probably the best thing that has ever happened to our industry, both for the people who work for us and for our guests,” said Meyer.

But restaurants are still struggling to hire staff to replace those they had to let go of at the start of the pandemic, he added. Not only is there a limited supply of restaurant talent as many restaurants are rushing to hire, but some workers may have left the industry altogether.

“Many layoffs instead took up work in companies that actually did quite well during Covid,” Meyers said. “They may have very good jobs right now and may or may not return to our industry.”

Meyers said restaurants still have time to hire new staff as offices are underutilized, resulting in slower lunches.

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