IOWA, USA — As summer sets in, restaurants are getting busier and busier. So what's the latest on the worker shortage for your favorite place to eat?
Local 5: Are restaurants getting more workers on their payroll? Are those incentives that we've talked about before? Are they working?
Jessica Dunker, Iowa Restaurant Association: You know, we are still really struggling to find workers. And even with higher pay, and we're seeing record pay increases to folks here and retention pay as well.
We just are not seeing candidates at the levels that we need.We still have half of Iowa's restaurants not operating at capacity, only because they don't have enough workers. So we are struggling to find the people we need to be able to open back up at full capacity.
Local 5: And how are restaurants and restaurant owners handling the mask situation for their employees?
Dunker: Most restaurants are allowing vaccinated employees the option of not wearing a mask. And I've heard of some restaurants that are actually going ahead and getting the vaccination ... using not having to wear the mask at work as an incentive to encourage people to go ahead and do that.
We have seen almost all restaurants put up signs that say if you are already vaccinated, you are free to come into our restaurant as a customer without a mask. They've been slower to take the masks off of employees. But we're now starting to see that as well as more and more people are vaccinated.
Local 5: And it doesn't sound like restaurants are back to where they were before the pandemic. How long until that happens?
Dunker: We would really like to be back where we were. The number one reason that we are not back to where we were before is because we do not have staff. Customer demand is there, we would like to be at capacity, we could be at capacity. And the only reason we aren't at capacity is because we don't have the workforce that we need.
And we don't see those labor shortages really starting to even themselves out even this summer. It will probably be into the fall when some of the folks that have taken themselves out of the workforce, re-enter the workforce with kids going back to school and kind of getting back to normal all the way around.
So all summer long we expect struggles for restaurants because we don't have the people we need to not just staff at capacity, but the additional capacity that comes when you have a patio open.
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