Roanoke Valley restaurants battle worker shortage to stay afloat

Fewer workers are causing restaurants to close their doors earlier

Roanoke restaurants struggling to hire employees
Roanoke restaurants struggling to hire employees

ROANOKE, Va. – It was common to see closure signs on restaurants’ doors during the coronavirus pandemic, but now they are replaced with help wanted signs.

Restaurant owners are now having to limit their service hours to combat a shortage of workers.

Jerry Lamb, the owner of Jerry’s Family Restaurant in Vinton, locked his restaurant’s doors for six months and 13 days during the pandemic.

Now, with customers flowing in, the new challenge is finding help.

“It’s hard, it makes it harder,” Lamb said.

Lamb said he recently hired four people but he is not having much luck hiring another eight more workers.

“I don’t know if it’s people enjoying unemployment and not going to work, or people who just don’t want to go to work,” he said. “I really don’t know.”

In the meantime, Lamb is closing his restaurant on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The Roanoker is also limiting their hours after the owner could not continue overworking her staff with 12-hour shifts.

Renee “Butch” Craft, the owner, said it was one of the toughest decisions she ever had to make.

“I can’t tell you how bad that was,” she said. “It was such a difficult decision for us, but I had to look out for my loyal team.”

Serving 400 people a day, the Roanoker’s staff is down by 10 people.

Craft said no matter what she offers in pay, many applicants are not returning calls or showing up for an interview.

“You can talk to them on the phone and you think it’s a good lead,” she said. “And then they don’t even show up.”

But the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund could be a glimmer of hope.

In just two days, the U.S. Small Business Administration received more than 186,000 applications.

Craft said with PPP loans helping her in the past, she aims to be the next name on the fund’s list.

“There’s a lot of restaurants struggling worst than we are. A lot of restaurants,” she said. “And I’m glad they established something that can help restaurants. We need it.”

However, in the first 21 days of the program, SBA will prioritize small businesses that are owned by women, veterans and socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs.


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