Jefferson County restaurants struggle to fill staffing holes

As of May 2021, the county has an unemployment rate of 3.4%.
Published: Jul. 18, 2021 at 4:24 PM CDT
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FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (WMTV) - With the unemployment rate in Wisconsin sitting at 3.9 percent, businesses in Jefferson County say they are hiring. As of May, the county has an unemployment rate of 3.4%.

NOW HIRING: Business owners in Beaver Dam and Fort Atkinson say they're having trouble finding workers. Tonight on NBC15 at 10, the hurdles local restaurants are facing to operate at full capacity.

Posted by Gabriella Rusk NBC15 on Sunday, July 18, 2021

In Fort Atkinson, Erin Patterson owns 10-62 Saloon and Paddy Coughlin’s Pub along Main Street.

She says she loves seeing her customers back but it has been difficult to navigate with a smaller staff.

“It’s hard to be able to balance the customers coming back in and being able to serve them effectively with a smaller team,” said Patterson. “We’re all adjusting. We’re all relearning the industry. We’re all relearning businesses right now.”

At Walker’s Restaurant in Beaver Dam, manager Kim Homan says it’s the smallest staff they’ve had in her eight years working.

“This is the hardest we’ve ever had getting people in here,” said Homan. “Finding enough people to run at full capacity and for the amount of business we have is just a lot harder.”

Restaurant owners and managers are also looking for ways to keep current employees from getting burnt out.

“It’s very tough, but we make it work,” said Homan. “Like I said, we have a lot of dedicated long-term employees and they’re what keep us going.”

Patterson says the restaurant industry overall needs to make major changes in attracting new hires.

“If you’re not making a good wage or if you’re not making a good living, you’re probably working in the wrong place or you’re working for the wrong person,” said Patterson. “Low pay shouldn’t be the norm.”

She says she offers her staff competitive wages, benefits to employees who work 32 hours or more, and flexibility when it comes to taking time off.

“I think the industry has taken a little bit of a hit in that area,” said Patterson. “I really hope that focus shifts and we see more people coming into the restaurant industry as a career.”

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