SoCal restaurants facing difficulties hiring back staff after COVID-19 woes

The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Establishments that have survived are hiring now that indoor dining has returned, with some restrictions, but filling open positions has been a challenge.

"The same ad is having about 20% of the effect that we had before. So before we would get about 100 candidates, now it's getting about 20-25 candidates. People had time off to find out what they're really passionate about, what they want to do with their life and it's an excuse to put themselves together," said Logan Doub, the general manager of True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica.

"We've had some people apply online, but trying to find that qualified candidates has been absolutely horrendous. Trying to find people who have experience, who know how to operate in a kitchen, it's been very difficult," said Joseph Badaro, owner of Hummus Labs in Pasadena.

Goodwill of Southern California Employment Centers say those who worked in the restaurant industry are now looking for positions with more job security.

"They do have openings. They're trying to ramp back up, but they're finding it difficult to find employees. They've had a lot of employees on call -- their former employees -- but a lot of those employees are weary of going back to that industry. It's so volatile and unpredictable as they found out that a lot of the former employees are looking to work in other industries that might be more stable," said James March, with Goodwill of Southern California.

Some in the restaurant industry are wondering whether employees would rather continue to collect unemployment benefits than go back to work, but Goodwill of SoCal says as things ramp back up and more people get vaccinated, job seekers are looking for something permanent to avoid their benefits running out.

But Doub believes the restaurant industry is positioned for a strong comeback.

"As the vaccines become more available, our staff, the ones who were uncomfortable coming back are going to want to come back and people will see the industry is set to have an explosive summer," he said. "People traveling again, ready to go out and it's going to be a really desirable job."

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