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'No one showed up for work today.' Restaurants struggling to stay open amid hiring shortage

Many are raising pay and benefits to be more competitive
'No one showed up for work today.' Restaurants struggling to stay open amid hiring shortage
Posted at 4:33 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 10:56:08-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — For the many people COVID-19 put out of work, there is good news. Job openings just keep coming. But there’s a problem. No one seems to want open jobs in one particular industry.

“This time of year is always a little bit challenging anyway. We’re ramping up getting ready for the busy summer months, ” said Mike Sandoval, who owns seven McDonald's franchises in the Denver area.

Just ask him. More staff is what he needs.

“We’re definitely looking to add, we’re looking to expand the business,” he said. “Somewhere in the ballpark of maybe 70 employees.”

The problem is, he is far from alone.

“There’s tens of thousands of jobs open in El Paso and Teller County,” Pikes Peak Workforce Center Executive Director/CEO Traci Marques said.

The signs are everywhere. Businesses, especially restaurants, need employees, and they need them now.

“Employers are really struggling right now in finding the talent that they need,” Marques said.

Case in-point, customers at the Sonic at Academy and El Morro in Colorado Springs were greeted with a sign Sunday reading:

“No-one showed up for work today because they are overworked and underpaid. There is only one person in the store. Sincerely, Sonic staff.”

The sign went on to say “we are closed until further notice.”

But why don’t people want these jobs?

“What we found is there’s a skills gap,” Marques said. “There’s a skills gap of what’s needed currently in the open positions, and the skills that those who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 currently had in their last job.”

The open jobs aren’t what people who are unemployed are looking for.

“You really look at what the hours that they have… but you also have to look at the pay,” she said. “What’s the pay that people are paying for minimum wage jobs?”

For restaurant operators--

“It’s extremely important to have everyone there,” Sandoval said. “That’s one of our selling points is that we’re a team environment.”

--It’s meant making their jobs more competitive.

“We have flexible scheduling,” he said. “We think in terms of strictly just pay and benefits, we’re competitive with anyone else.”

Major chains are also stepping up their recruiting. McDonald's is hosting a hiring event to meet its goal of bringing 3200 new employees to the Colorado region.

Applebee's says it’s looking to hire 10,000 people across the country, offering free appetizers to anyone who showed up at a location for an interview Monday.

“We are seeing some increase in wages,” Marques said. “We’re also seeing companies being very creative in having a retention bonus or hiring bonus.”

The Pikes Peak Workforce center offers an array of resources to both employers and job-seekers on its website.