Restaurants can’t find workers—why and what you might do about it.

In New Mexico, seventy-nine thousand five hundred seventy-eight (75,578) people are still unemployed, yet we can’t get anyone to work. What the heck?

There are many reasons for this phenomenon. The fact that federal unemployment enhancement rates make it comfortable and even semi-lucrative to stay home is one of the main reasons. The federal unemployment enhancement of $300 per week is keeping people from even applying for a job. I heard from one of our members that they had a position open. 26 people were scheduled for interviews, three showed up, and one of them said he would be available in September when the federal enhancement went away. I know many of you are experiencing the same thing.

The inconsistency of the color-coded counties is making rehiring difficult on both sides of the equation. Restaurants are hesitant to hire people, not knowing if their county will go backward, forcing layoffs again. And the unemployed are hesitant to go back to work after finally getting through to the unemployment maze. No one should have to go through either side of this equation again.

There are a few other reasons that I think we need to be aware of and give people the benefit of the doubt. Kids are not truly back in school to allow parents to go back to work.  Both the President and the Governor have said schools should be open. For instance, one of my staff members’ son went back to school for a week before the school was shut down due to the virus again. This is not an environment that gives people the confidence to go back to work.

Another situation that will become a glaring problem is that many of our most motivated employees have moved to other states to work. Arizona and Texas were far more open throughout the pandemic, and many of our best workers left to find employment there.

And the last thing is the ability to get the vaccination. Many people are waiting on the state to get their first appointment; some don’t have internet access to get signed up. NMRA is working with the Environment Department to schedule pop-up vaccination events for our employees and their families in the restaurant industry. Stay tuned for these events in your area.

We are working on scheduling job fairs in cities throughout the state. We are speaking to the Department of Workforce Solutions on what we might do to manage this situation and help us get people back to work. I understand that restaurants can still offer part-time jobs to employees to keep their unemployment benefits and work. I know that doesn’t help that much. You need full-time employees that will show up, but maybe two part-time employees are better than one full-time right now.

One thing you might do is offer a hiring bonus. If an applicant stays three months, pay them a $500 bonus. If an employee can find you another employee, offer them a $500 bonus if that referral stays with you for three months. Get creative.

I have been touting the Employee Retention Tax Credit for our industry. This is crazy money for a little bit of work (and restaurateurs never shy away from work). I know you are busy, but figuring out this credit can get you the money to use for these hiring bonuses. For instance, one small restaurant got $70,000 with this credit. See our webinar here on how to access these funds Take the time to do this for your restaurant NOW!

One last thing. Every time I go on the radio or TV, I’m asking customers to be patient and give us grace. Just because the governor allows us to have more capacity, we are still working through everything from supply chain issues to spacing requirements to rehiring and retraining a whole new crew.

We remain in your corner! Keep in touch. Let us know what more we can do.