Restaurants scramble to find workers as businesses reopen


MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – A family affair for Steve Lauck, his wife, and two sons at Vivola Express in Maryland Heights. The pandemic has placed yet another load upon restaurant and business owners everywhere – finding good help.

“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.”

A sign of modern times.

As more people get vaccinated and begin heading back to their favorite stops, the keyword coming from this pandemic, 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 bonusses 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 the Chase Park Plaza, hosting a hospitality industry job fair on Monday, May 3, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chase’s Khorassan Ballroom.

“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 to continue to change at restaurants along with streamlined menus, hours, patience will serve you well.

“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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