Help Wanted: Local restaurants struggling to find staff

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Many restaurants owners in the Peoria area have said it’s hard to find and keep staff amidst the pandemic.

Jerry Weaver, co-owner of Jubilee Cafe in Kickapoo, said he believes it’s because people make more on unemployment than they would working.

“We can’t get people to come in, and I think a lot of the reason we can’t get employees is the government makes it too easy for people to stay at home and make money at home and not do anything,” he said.

Through the American Rescue Plan, the federal government is continuing to provide an extra $300, on top of unemployment benefits, through Sept. 6. Additionally, recipients won’t have to pay taxes on the funds, up to the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received.

Emily Cotton, owner of Cyd’s in the Park in North Peoria, said she feels the nature of the job itself is keeping people from applying.

“I think there’s still a lot of people in the community who are uncomfortable … you know, the numbers are high, and working in a restaurant can be considered a higher risk,” she said.

Julian Bonello, Cyd’s general manager, said they are giving existing staff incentives to stay, including a pay raise and increased hours, to make up for the lackluster pool of applicants.

“I have two interviews set up this week, but the majority of applications we receive are unqualified,” Bonello said.

The pandemic caused a major contraction in restaurant staffing across the nation. The National Restaurant Association reported a loss of 3.1 million employees at the end of 2020, and many left the hospitality industry for jobs in other fields.

“You can check with anyone in Peoria and I’m sure you’ll experience it, getting employees is the biggest challenge,” Weaver said.

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