‘We can’t keep up with the demand’: Some Utah restaurant owners struggle to find staff

Posted at 10:09 PM, Mar 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 00:09:26-04

SALT LAKE CITY — This week, everyone over the age of 16 in Utah will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine. As more people get vaccinated and restrictions begin to be loosened, restaurants are starting to get busier.

READ: Salt Lake County Health Department to open vaccine registration Monday morning

Throughout the pandemic, Moudi Sbeity, the co-owner Laziz Kitchen, said they have focused a lot on take-out. Now, more people are wanting to sit inside.

“We are getting a lot of people in here, which we are so grateful for, but we don’t have enough people to work,” he said.

READ: Utah restaurants, bars prepare to begin or increase in-person dining again

Industry-wide, there is a shortage of service industry employees right now in Utah, according to Michele Corigliano, the Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association's executive director.

“I think the problem is people don’t realize how well economically or how sound economically the state of Utah is and how well the service industry is performing,” Sbeity said.

The owners of Oquirrh Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City are facing the same issue of not enough people applying for jobs.

“I think part of that is that people are getting their unemployment checks. I have had applicants say that to me straight up,” chef and owner Andrew Fuller said.

READ: Some Utah businesses will require employees to get vaccinated

There is also concern in the service industry about contracting COVID-19. It is disappointing to service industry employees, who worked throughout the pandemic keeping people fed, that they were not offered vaccines in any sort of priority group.

“We should be front-liners and we are not. Restaurants are not front-liners,” Oquirrh co-owner Angelena Fuller said.

READ: Latest plans for some of Utah's summer concerts, festivals

It’s been a year of adapting and changing, and now it is time for people to come back to work so things can adapt again.

“There is no point in expanding in sales if we don’t have the right people to actually do this correctly,” Sbeity said.

If you are looking for a job in the service industry, check with restaurants in your area.