NORFOLK, Va. - The restaurant crew at Stockpot in Downtown Norfolk were preparing meals, greeting guests, and performing other duties as customers came in for the lunch rush.
Some of the employees there that Wednesday afternoon are still employed after several others lost their jobs once the Coronavirus pandemic started.
"When COVID started unfortunately we had to lay off a good deal of our staff,” Amber Kostka, the restaurant’s general manager, said. “Almost 75 percent of our staff."
Now, Kostka said there are jobs available, but there is a problem.
"Some of those people we have hired have gotten other positions or have decided not to come back to work at all,” She said. "We've had a few applicants but unfortunately none of them are really experienced in restaurants."
This struggle is not a challenge just for them.
"It's a challenging time for both employers and employees,” Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Travel, and Lodging Association, said.
Terry said restaurants across the Commonwealth are having issues hiring right now. Some of the issues pertain to the hopeful hire themselves.
"Schools, being one that parents may need to be dealing with their children doing remote learning,” Terry explained. “I think in other cases it's concerns about the vaccinations and COVID-19."
He also pointed to people leaving the industry, juggling busy schedules, and extended unemployment payouts. Terry added, however, that thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, a steady easement on restrictions and a minimum wage increase set for May, the situation is projected to look bright.
"I think you're going to see a pretty significant wave of hiring going on,” Terry said.
The job board on the association’s website listed a number of positions for cooks at various restaurants in Virginia. That, along with serves, are two of the most common sought-after positions with restaurants, according to Terry.
For Stockpot, the hardest position to fill is for a part-time dishwasher, Kostka said. Regardless of the hiring struggle, she said the restaurant is optimistic for the future.
"We have seen a noticeable slight uptick,” Kostka explained, “but like I said it's slight and so unpredictable. We're hoping for the best in these upcoming months."