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Restaurants shelling out incentives to get more employees in the door

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BATON ROUGE - At the beginning of the pandemic, the problem at restaurants was lack of business. Now the demand is there and short-staffed eateries struggling to meet it are trying something new.

Some restaurant owners say they just can't get a full staff.

"Our table shortages now aren't necessarily because of the spacing. The table shortage now is because we can't find the labor force to come back to work," said Stephen Hightower managing partner at City Group Hospitality.

So Southern Pearl Oyster House decided to shuck out some new hiring methods.

"Usually in the past, we have always just depended on searching online on sites like Indeed, or going to our web site looking at career options or social media. Now we're offering these bounty programs,” said Kelsey Griffin, marketing director of Gulf Coast Restaurant Group.

Southern Pearl Oyster House offers $100 to anyone hired who completes training and a $200 bonus in their second paycheck. After 90 days, employees get a $300 bonus. 

"New people that are already employed or looking for a new job, or it's the summer (and) they are out for school looking to make extra money, we are trying to attract them. This used to never be an issue and it is an issue now,” said Griffin.

Griffin said applications at the company's 14 locations are down dramatically.

"In peak months we probably receive anywhere from 15 to 20 applicants and in the past few months, we got maybe 10,” said Griffin.

Other restaurants have tied the hiring struggle to so many receiving federal assistance, while Griffin believes there's just more competition between businesses.

"We have to break out of the mold of being not just a restaurant job. A lot of our general managers started off as bussers, hosts, servers, and bartenders. Yes we have multiple locations but we really kind of grow from within and the opportunities are endless,” Griffin said.

The incentives have led to a spike in applicants, but just as they have oysters to shuck they have positions to fill.

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