PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The era of small business struggles is far from over.
Dan Kouri, the owner of Lariat Steakhouse and Kouri’s Pub, has been in the hospitality business for more than 50 years.
“This last year with the pandemic has been by far the most challenging year in the hospitality business since I’ve been in it,” Kouri said.
He said the main issue small businesses are facing right now is labor.
“We’ve gone through a cycle of losing staff, to working a lot short-handed. The demand for our products has been way up, but we haven’t had the staff to accommodate,” he said.
When labor is short, the pressure falls on the employees that remain.
“Those people, those key personnel, the waitresses — you’re asking waitresses to come in and work extra shifts. Bartenders are working extra shifts. Definitely, the kitchen staff, which people don’t see,” Kouri said. “And I know from numerous facilities around Peoria, they’re all under high stress.”
Kouri said he is trying to hire as many people as he can, while still trying to balance high labor and supply costs.
Kari Rouh, the director of Workforce Solutions at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said Kouri is not alone.
“I’ve heard from many restaurant owners, they’re having a hard time finding employees,” Rouh said.
She said her research shows that an unprecedented amount of people are quitting their jobs. This phenomenon is called “The Great Resignation.”
She said there is no simple solution to these issues, pointing to a cultural shift nationwide where many are reconsidering their careers and what they want out of work.
“The ‘Great Resignation’ and just the challenge employers are having as it relates to hiring is an opportunity for us to look at, ‘okay, how do we really leverage the gifts and skills of people who have not been in the workforce?'” Rouh said.
She also said one way to maintain employees is to show appreciation.
“Everything that a manager can do to create a culture that is affirming and continues to build into their employees,” Rouh suggested.