Boston restaurant owner says COVID created workforce dilemma

Boston restaurant owner facing staff shortage amid ‘surge’ in business

Boston Urban Hospitality co-owner Chris Coombs discusses the state of the restaurant industry one year after COVID lockdowns.

Chris Coombs, co-owner of Boston Urban Hospitality, said Monday, that he's facing a staff shortage amid a "surge in business" one year after coronavirus lockdowns.

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"We've seen a surge in business, particularly this last weekend. It was the busiest that we've been in 13 or 14 months. And we're trying to hire, we're still 175 employees down from our previous counts. And we're not even getting any applications,he told FOX Business' "Varney & Co."

Coombs' comments come on the heels of Boston moving into a new phase of its reopening plan allowing outdoor dining to resume on March 22.

The Boston restauranteur believes the worker shortage is due to a "multitude of factors" including lack of confidence in the stability of jobs and employees feeling more comfortable collecting federal unemployement benefits.

"Our industry's been remarkably inconsistent on employment for the last year, which doesn't have our employees confident that they can have a good job when they come back. It is a lot safer and a lot more secure to sit home and collect your federal unemployment benefits, knowing exactly what you're going to make every week," he said.

The "other" factor, he said, is many workers "that weren't taken care of during the pandemic" changed their careers.

"We've seen workers go to real estate and construction and other areas. We've seen 150,000 restaurants close across the country permanently, yet there's still a short supply of workers. Where has everybody gone?"

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While workers could return once their federal benefits expire, Coombs was pessimistic about the industry ever returning to normal.

"A lot of people are making the choice to stay at home, you know, either for safety reasons or just they want to take a nice, leisurely summer," he said. "Maybe they'll return in the fall. But right now, we do not see the workforce returning to the restaurant business and hospitality and leisure in general."

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