Chef Wolfgang Puck failing to hire staff despite offering servers $120,000 per year in some locations
Famed chef Wolfgang Puck said he is having trouble finding employees to work at his upscale restaurants despite some locations paying servers six figures per year.
“People get paid really well,” Puck said. “Still, it’s difficult to find people to work. At Chinois in Santa Monica, it’s the same thing. I cannot open for lunchtime. Or even at Spago in Beverly Hills, you know, where people, waiters, make $120,000 a year. But I cannot find them.”
Puck is just one of many business owners around the country struggling to find workers despite the availability of millions of jobs. The restaurant industry has been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic recovery, so far filling 1.7 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic.
Many of the industry’s workers have not come back as restaurants around the country begin to reopen, with some citing safety as a reason why they have not returned. But Republicans argue that the Biden administration’s decision to boost unemployment benefits is to blame for the labor shortage.
Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have echoed similar thoughts as the GOP, arguing that extra unemployment money is discouraging employees from returning to the workplace.
The result has left Puck admitting that it is “difficult to get back to normal business.”
“The demand is definitely there. We get enough customers, but we cannot serve them. In an upscale environment, you have to give people great food and great service. So, it’s difficult to find enough people,” Puck said.
Puck said one solution could be to open up borders again, which would allow skilled workers to come to the country from places such as Europe and South America.
“I think the government really should loosen up and have cooks come, if it’s from France or Italy or from South America or wherever, so we can get the workforce up to par. If they are professional, why not get jobs? And then, they pay taxes, and everything will get better,” Puck said.
Some of Puck’s restaurants have been unable to open because of continued pandemic restrictions, such as his location in Bahrain that remains closed as COVID-19 cases skyrocket on the island nation.
The chef said he has considered opening “ghost kitchens” in some of those locations to handle takeout and delivery services, though such offerings are not ideal at fine-dining establishments.
“Takeout is not our main business,” Puck said. “Our main business is keeping the customer, making the customer happy in our restaurant, make them feel good, give them great food and great service.”
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Original Author: Michael Lee