Restaurants desperately searching for workers

Angela Albanin, owner of Maria’s Greek Restaurant, explains to an angry customer that there’s only one server and herself on the floor. Photo Credit: Shantel Sanchez / SFMN

At the height of the pandemic last year,  Angela Albanin, owner of Maria’s Greek Restaurant in Coral Gables, was afraid she would have to close the 40-year-old restaurant because she had neither customers nor staff. 

Today, she faces a different problem: she has plenty of customers but insufficient staff to serve them. 

Albanin says she serves more tables each day and though she is glad more money is coming in, she’s afraid she can’t keep up. 

“We keep getting people to come in, but they don’t stay long,” she says. “We are still looking for help.” 

Other restaurant owners are experiencing labor shortages on both local and national levels. 

This month, the National Restaurant Association released a report that found seven in 10 restaurants do not have enough employees to support the customer demand.

It reported that 75% percent of restaurant owners plan to devote more resources to recruiting and retaining employees.

Albanin says the extra money she’s making now isn’t enough to provide incentives for employees to stay because it only covers the restaurant’s expenses. 

Without enough employees, restaurant owners have had to take over positions that have yet to be filled. 

Jorge Decespedes, who owns Diego’s Andalucia Tapas in Coral Gables, says he’s worried he can’t continue doing all the additional jobs much longer because he’s getting more tired each day. He says he’s always had just a few employees but never imagined being so short-staffed.

“I’m honestly exhausted and I don’t even have any time to dedicate to anything else,” he says. “I need some time for myself and my family.” 

If closing isn’t an option, finding long-term employees is a must. 

Albanin says she’s owned Maria’s for most of her adult life, and she can’t imagine doing anything else. But without help, it’s becoming harder to hold on to the place. 

“I really don’t want to close my restaurant so I am working very hard to keep it running,” she added. “I am going to work here every day if I need to but I just don’t understand why people don’t want to stay working for longer than a few weeks.” 

Shantel Sanchez is a senior at Florida International University studying to become a broadcast journalist. She enjoys traveling and going to the beach with her family. Another one of her passions is marketing, as she enjoys learning about the field and the strategies that are used.