Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Restaurants bouncing back from pandemic-induced worker shortage

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BATON ROUGE – There is still a "now hiring" sign posted on the Mestizo restaurant's hostess desk, though the need for new employees is not as dire as it used to be.

“We’ve lucked out and have been able to piece-meal most of the front of the house so we’re not so behind,” Mestizo's owner Jim Urdiales said.

Urdiales, like many others in the industry, found himself in a tough, tiring situation. He could not find enough staff to properly serve his customers.

“There’s just really not a plethora of people applying,” Urdiales said.

The problem started during the pandemic when enhanced employment benefits were put into place, but Governor John Bel Edwards is ending the $300 weekly supplement at the end of July.

“We’re hoping the reduction of benefits will get people back out and into the workforce,” Urdialis said.

Mestizo's is slowly seeing people return to work, and Urdialis is only struggling to fill kitchen staff right now. Others restaurant owners are feeling the same.

About a month ago, the owner of Drago's said he had 50 shifts at the Baton Rouge location that he needed to fill. Now, he’s down to 10 uncovered shifts and has transitioned more employees into training mode.

“I've seen perseverance throughout our industry and other industries, and the strongest pivot and survive,” Urdiales said.


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