coronavirus pandemic

South Bay Businesses Struggling to Find Workers as COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

NBC Universal, Inc.

As Santa Clara County businesses gear up to operate under the less restrictive yellow COVID-19 reopening tier, many business owners are facing a new problem, which is finding enough workers.

It's particularly tough for restaurants. At “A Slice Of New York” restaurant in San Jose, the pizza is very popular and even during a pandemic, the takeout business has generally been good. Now that restrictions are easing, restaurant founder Kirk Vartan said he could use more qualified workers. But he said that he can’t find any.

“Well I tell you, it’s really challenging,” he said. “We’re advertising with our base salary which starts at $16.50 with our surcharge it goes over $20. No experience required and we don’t get anyone applying. We have an Indeed ad that shows $22 to $24 an hour and we’re still not getting qualified applicants.”

Vartan can only guess as to why the low turnout for applications.

"Even though it might not be quite as much as coming back to work with unemployment benefits, I think that’s probably the cause," he added.

On Wednesday, the San Jose international Airport held a job fair to staff concessions that are reopening. They are recruiting the food and beverage workers that the restaurants also want.

“We do need those bartenders. front of house and back of house people in the restaurants,” said Scott Riddle, the property manager at San Jose International Airport. “It has been very difficult for the whole industry and every airport in the country is dealing with the same problem.”

Some applicants say restaurant work is now unpredictable.

“I kinda want to try to step out of there, that mindset, you know? Kind of have a brighter and more positive view about things,” said Destiny Urias, a clerk.

James Kerkstra, who is a bartender is also having a hard time. “Trying to find something full-time that’s really solid,” he said. “Right now, especially as things are gearing back up is a little tougher.”

Vartan said that is restaurant is fortunate.

He told NBC Bay Area that some longtime former workers who moved out of the area are returning and will be hired back, before they can be snapped up by other businesses looking for help.

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