WNY restaurants struggle to find employees as business picks up

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WILLIAMSVILLE N.Y. (WIVB) – Restaurants have celebrated victories in recent week, the curfew being pushed back and the state allowing for more capacity. Now the industry is facing a new obstacle.

“So as the restrictions lighten up and lessen. It’s becoming more and more difficult for us to manage our restaurants,” said Jimmy Butera who owns Butera’s Craft Beer and Craft Pizza in Hamburg. “I’ve heard of my colleagues having to close days that they’re normally open, because they can’t get the staff to do it. Closing early because they can’t stay open the extra hour. It’s difficult.”

Butera says the past six to eight months have been especially difficult, as his business faces short staffing.

In Williamsville at Glen Park Tavern, co-owner Ellie Grenauer says they’re so short staffed they have to remain closed on Sundays.

“We’re having a really hard time filling positions and the customers are coming back which is great news but we have to close on a Sunday because I just don’t have the staff,” she said. “I can’t over work my staff like that.”

She says they went from having 50 employees, down to 16 during the shut down. Now they have 30 employees, which is still 20 less than last year.

Grenauer and Butera believe unemployment benefits are a reason they’re struggling to find people.

“I really wish the federal government had given people a stimulus to go back to work right? So those people that could, if they gave them a stimulus to go back to work,” Grenauer said.

“You know, why would anyone want to come back and work for the same amount of money they’re getting for free? I think that’s our biggest challenge we’re trying to fight right now,” Butera said.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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