Amid Pandemic Recovery, Restaurant Industry Faces Hiring Struggles

Monday, April 19th 2021, 6:15 pm
By: Jonathan Cooper

TULSA, Oklahoma -

As the restaurant industry slowly recovers from the pandemic, many restaurant owners face a new problem: hiring.

They said they’re having a hard time finding people willing to work and apply.

“We’re busy, busier than we’ve ever been,” said Tony Harris, General Manager of Santa Fe Cattle Company in Broken Arrow. 

Harris said the restaurant’s sales are up 50 percent from before the pandemic. The problem: his staffing is way down.

Harris said, like most restaurants, he had to furlough employees during the lockdowns last year. But when he offered their jobs back a few months later, not everyone returned.

“Some of them came back. A lot of them didn’t,” said Harris. “It was just surprising to us. We figured everyone would be excited to come back to work, but they would take a pay cut if they came back to work.”

Harris said he’s heard from some applicants who are hesitant to give up extended unemployment benefits right now.

Oklahoma Restaurant Association President Jim Hopper said overall, hiring issues are an industry wide problem right now.

“I hear about it every single day,” said Hopper.

Hopper said some in the industry have simply moved on.

“They unfortunately got laid off about this time last year if not a little bit before and said, ‘look I need to go do something else,’” said Hopper. 

Hopper said their organization is doing what they can to help, including opening their job bank to all members. They also are working with the OESC to plan job fairs focused on the hospitality industry.

In the meantime, Harris is asking customers to be patient.

“We can’t give the service that we want to, we know that, we’re struggling,” Harris said.

To apply or learn more, visit Santa Fe Cattle Company's website here.