Iowa Restaurants Struggling to Hire Workers as Business Picks Up

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa has fully vaccinated nearly one million people against COVID-19. It’s welcome news for restaurants that are seeing more customers return.

However, getting restaurant staff to also return is proving to be a challenge. According to the Iowa Restaurant Association, the biggest challenge for the industry right now is finding employees again.

Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, said some establishments have had to hold off on fully reopening or even close back down because they are so understaffed.

The Iowa Restaurant Association said the problem is twofold. When restaurants closed down early in the pandemic, many workers took their skills and moved to other industries, while others took unemployment benefits.

“While you don’t make as much money on unemployment as you would if you were working, you are making enough that if you were home with kids and just waiting until they are back to school full time or want to get through the summer, it is enough,” said Dunker.

Dunker said it’s not just bartender and server positions that restaurants are struggling to fill. Even kitchen management positions that pay up to $60,000 a year are going unfilled in some places.

Some restaurants are trying to lure workers back by raising wages and even adding sign-on bonuses.

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