Outer Banks restaurants facing challenges finding workers for busy summer season

Outer Banks restaurant.png
Posted at 10:13 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 23:26:27-04

KITTY HAWK, N.C. - It’s a pledge from longtime Outer Banks restaurant owner Tommy Karole.

“I plan on making it,” Karole told News 3. “I will wash dishes tonight in my own restaurant.”

Karole owns The Paper Canoe and The Pony and The Boat, located up and down the Outer Banks.

“[It’s] a great way to make a living if you enjoy what you do, which I happen to do,” he said.

Karole has owned restaurants in the area for about 25 years. This past year, he opened The Pony and The Boat.

A new restaurant amid new challenges.

“I happen to turn to a friend next to me literally after I signed the paperwork, and I said, 'My phone is blowing up on something about the coronavirus,'” Karole said. “I found out real fast what the coronavirus was all about.”

He, like many other local businesses, have been navigating unprecedented times.

Now, for him and others, it's been hard finding workers for the busy summer season.

“We don’t have the labor to service the people that are down here,” he said.

“There’s a lot of unemployment checks being made by Uncle Sam,” Karole added. “I think it’s a combination of the unemployment checks, the people that don’t want to get out and work and the other is housing. We’re in a housing crunch here in the Outer Banks that has never been seen before.”

At this time, Karole’s restaurants are only open for five dinner shifts a week, compared to what he says he should be operating at 14 lunch and dinner shifts.

“It’s a tough business to begin with, and this has been the straw that’s pushed people over the edge,” he said. “There are long standing, longtime restaurants that are down here that are having the same issues, and that’s what concerns me.”

Related: Restaurant fund program closure announced ahead of SBA administrator's Hampton Roads visit

But through these times, Karole is keeping positive and looking ahead.

“Keep on smiling [and] keep on working,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it turning around, and I’m confident that it will.”

Click here for more resources from the Rebound.