Right now, 80% of restaurants in Iowa don’t have enough employees to meet their needs. That’s getting worse with staffing shortages in other industries.
Jessica Dunker, the president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, says staffing shortages in the trucking, shipping and packaging industries are growing. That’s leaving restaurants already short on staff short on supplies as well.
“Those other food related industries need workers too, and if they don’t find truck drivers and warehouse workers and people to work in the plants that produce food, we will continue to struggle, because we simply can’t get what we need to produce our experience,” Dunker said.
Bill Collins, the owner of “Me & Billy”, a restaurant in downtown Davenport, says he’s been searching for employees since at least March, and the shortage of truck drivers and warehouse workers has now given him another thing to search for: simple, everyday restaurant products.
“Some of the most simple items [are] just so hard to get, because some of these items are stuck in port or stuck on a ship out in the ocean, and they can’t get it unloaded because there’s no one to unload the ships,” Collins said.
Collins says Me & Billy is normally open six days a week, but with a small number of employees working a large number of hours, he was forced to cut back, closing the restaurant on Sundays and Mondays.
“They’re working crazy amount of hours Tuesday through Saturday, so we had to close on Mondays just to give them a little break,” he said.
However, there could be an upside to the staffing shortages across these industries. Dunker says her association is hoping working moms who had to stay home with their kids might return to work with school now being in session. She also says that with there being a greater number of job openings in the U.S. than there are unemployed individuals, there will be places for Afghan refugees in the food service industry.
With the current challenges, both Dunker and Collins say it’s important to be grateful for restaurant employees.
“I just want to give a big shoutout to our entire staff that’s working here,” Collins said.
“Every time I go into a restaurant now, I thank the people and just say, ‘Thanks for coming to work.'”