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Restaurant industry still suffering 19 months after pandemic's start

Many restaurants have been forced to close due to a lack of employees.

SAN ANTONIO — The U.S. jobs report is out, and the economy added over 530,000 jobs in October, 80,000 more than economists initially forecast. But one industry is still suffering after over a year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic. 

They're calling it the Great Resignation, and it's serving up a world of hurt for the restaurant industry that was hit hard by the COVID-19. 

"I heard Miss Ann saying that, 'Oh, they're shortstaffed. They may not be able to open a certain section because they don't have enough people to serve in that area.' And I was like, 'Well, I'm looking for a job, so I can't really in good faith pass by that,'" said Sam Kuhn, who has been working for a few weeks now. 

Kuhn's delivery business is booming, but a "Now Hiring" sign has been hanging for a few days and nobody has come in looking for a job. This, Kuhn says, despite promise of good pay. 

"You're getting some base pay, and then you're always getting a chance to make more than that," he said. "Because if you're staying busy, if you're getting a lot of tables, then you're just gonna be getting more and more every hour."

"It's not just someone who's still on unemployment issue," said Joe Monastero, chief operating officer for the Texas Restaurant Association. "Child care was a major challenge because there is a significantly higher percentage of the demographics of restaurant workers (who are) single parents."

For restaurants with more than 100 employees, the national vaccine mandate is yet another hurdle. The Texas Restaurant Association told KENS 5 in a statement that "with over 70% of Texas restaurants already reporting that they do not have enough employees to support existing customer demand, this could be disastrous for restaurants that have struggled to stay in business for the past 19 months."

And with so many restaurants shortstaffed, if you do go out to eat, be understanding. 

"Enjoy yourselves, enjoy being back in restaurants, but have patience," Monastero said. "Have grace."

Just like last year, the Texas Restaurant Association says gift cards to restaurants are a great way to both make gift-giving and to give an assist to a struggling industry.