Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Hiring incentives paying off from some businesses

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BATON ROUGE - Compared to a few months ago, Brad Zito of Drusilla Seafood Restaurant is feeling much more optimistic about hiring, even though the restaurant is not yet fully staffed.

"Every single day, we have to discuss, 'do we have enough staff for the amount of business we have on our books,'" Zito said.

Recently, Zito has been able to plug some of the gaps in his staff that surfaced as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

"I think we've probably hired about five or six new servers, and we've hired four or five bussers," Zito said.

He attributes the new additions to his staff to hiring incentives. Earlier this year, the restaurant started offering $100 bonuses to servers who sign-on and $50 for bussers.

Zito said colleges and universities letting out for the summer provided a boost in younger workers applying.

But he needs more workers, both inside the restaurant and next door at the catering business.

The hiring problem came into focus in February, he said, as customers returned, but many workers did not.

"I'm a little bit more comfortable now because we've hired a few people," Zito said.

Businesses across the state and country have a hard time filling out their staffs, which some have attributed to the extra $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance the government has been providing.

Louisiana is now expected to end those benefits early, at the end of July, based on a compromise between lawmakers and Gov. John Bel Edwards in the waning moments of the legislative session.

Zito said he hopes that will increase interest in job openings.

"I think it's definitely keeping people at home," Zito said. "I think it's definitely ... going to change some things come July 31, when it's not available anymore."

Coming off one of the best months of business ever in May, rivaling numbers seen in 2019, Zito says plenty of his loyal, longstanding employees are still working overtime to make up for the remaining staff shortages.

And Zito says his incentives aren't going anywhere, especially as the restaurant enters the typically slower summer months.

"I think we're going to continue to offer the incentives until we have enough staff," Zito said. "I'm not sure if that will go away when July 31 gets here."


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