‘Help Wanted’: Indy businesses’ limiting hours as labor shortage hits critical low

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A ‘Help Wanted’ sign is posted beside Coronavirus safety guidelines in front of a restaurant in Los Angeles, California on May 28, 2021. – Following over a year of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, many jobs at restaurants, retail stores and bars remain unfilled, despite California’s high unemployment rate, causing some owners to fear they will not be able to fully reopen by the June 15th date California has given for a full reopening of the economy. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

BROAD RIPPLE, Ind. — A disappointing jobs report in August, employers nationwide added just 235,000 jobs. It’s the clearest sign so far the delta variant is impacting the economy.

Matthew Will, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Finance at the University of Indianapolis analyzed the report and said “People might think that’s great but the expectations it would be 720,000 new jobs. So it fell half a million jobs short of what the market was thinking was going to happen.”

‘3 Sisters Café’ has been a staple in downtown Broad Ripple for more than two decades. With a desperate need for servers and fewer customers coming through the door, the café decided to temporarily close on Wednesdays. 

“Choosing to do that was the hardest part of all” said waitress Sara Reed-Purvis. “As a server, on minimum, minimum wage, you depend on the customer coming in. There just is a shortage city-wide and therefore we had to adapt to that.”

It’s a trend seen across Central Indiana. Bub’s Burgers is closing on Tuesdays at almost all of its locations. The Cunningham Group will be closed on Labor Day. It sent an email to customers saying

“While we are pleased to welcome you back, our guests’ incredible pace of return has resulted in some unforeseen challenges. One of the challenges we face is having fulled staffed restaurants.  I feel confident that we will overcome our staffing issues as we strive every day to be the restaurant of choice for delighting our guests.  However, you may have noticed temporary closings of some of your favorite CRG restaurants.  We take this action to give our team members well-deserved time off to recharge.  You may also have noticed less available reservations and possibly longer wait times, based on staffing.  Please be patient with us as we rebuild our exceptional team and don’t hesitate to refer people you know who would be a great addition to our team!”

Experts say staffing issues began before the pandemic and have only gotten worse. 

“In January 8% of restaurant owners rated recruitment and retention of workers was their top challenge,” said Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Only 8% in January. By June it had risen to 75%, which is the highest it’s been in 20 years.”

Tamm says 215,000 Hoosier restaurant workers were laid-off during the pandemic and filling those jobs will take time.  

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