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Server Shortage: Local restaurants struggle to hire workers

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association says this is an industry-wide problem.
Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 4:27 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2021 at 6:44 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - At the Nitty Gritty, manager McKenna Becker has been working long hours in a variety of roles.

“You might have to seat them, serve them, make their drinks, get their food out,” said Becker. “All the different things that you would do for a restaurant might be done by just one person now.”

“It’s been a kind of busy in ways that we’ve never really experienced before,” said Becker. “We’re working so hard all the time.”

Nitty Gritty General Manager Michael Leto says he’d like to be able to double the current staff come this fall.

“We would ideally have between 100 to 115 employees,” said Leto. “Right now, we currently have 45-55 employees.”

Leto says the bar and restaurant is actively hiring for all positions.

“We’ve been trying to just add as much staff as we possibly can, but like a lot of other restaurants and small businesses across the industry, we’ve been struggling,” said Leto.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association says this is an industry-wide problem. Kristine Hillmer, the president and CEO, says the biggest factor is workers choosing to leave the restaurant business.

“We have a lot of folks that when the pandemic hit and they were laid off, they left the industry altogether,” said Hillmer. “Some people to help support their families did migrate over to a different profession.”

Hillmer says some former employees are also opting to temporarily live off of unemployment and don’t have an immediate need to job search.

“We do know that the federal unemployment extra dollars do have an impact on people willing to work or willing to work to their full capacity,” she said.

Because of the need for workers, restaurants like the Nitty Gritty, are asking customers for their patience.

“We’re working pretty tirelessly right now,” said Leto. “We’re just trying to do the best we can to provide the best experience for all of our guests.”

If you’re interested in applying for a job at any of the Nitty Gritty locations in Dane County, click HERE.

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