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Labor shortages still impacting restaurants across Central Texas

Posted at 11:55 AM, Aug 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 13:16:29-04

WACO, Texas — A year and a half into the pandemic and the labor market is still dragging its feet and you might notice slower than usual service at restaurants.

As the people who run some of those restaurants tell us, they just can't find enough people who are willing to work.

Within walking distance from the Silos, you'll find L-and-L Hawaiian BBQ. They serve up a taste of the islands in downtown Waco.

For franchisee Ray Garrison, the restaurant business is his passion.

"We don't do fast food here," Garrison said. "We do food and we cook it fast."

Like every business that's still afloat he has adapted. Social distancing surfboards line the floor, reminding customers to stay a board length apart, for example.

But one thing this tasty eatery can't get used to is being short staffed. It takes teamwork.

They opened in December with a full crew, but the pandemic quickly put their momentum on ice.

"People were just dropping like flies," Garrison said. "Some were getting sick others were coming in and doing the unemployment thing."

Garrison runs the place with his business partner, but they're short four workers and that means he ends up picking up the slack.

"I just multitask like no one would believe," Garrison said. "Payroll, cook, clean, cash, you just be a jack-of-all-trades and where the fire is burning, you try to put the fire out by doing that job."

He needs to hire two more cooks and two more cashiers, but no one seems to want to work.

"I'm actually here 12-to-14-hour days," Garrison said.

To catch a break, he's having to close early and shut down one day a week, which is costing him money.

In nearby Hewitt, it's the same story.

George's Restaurant & Bar is also having a hard time finding help.

"At the end of the day, the customer sacrifices or loses out the most because they're having to have long waits to get into restaurants," said Kyle Citrano, managing partner of George's. "Once they get into restaurants, they have long waits to get food."

And then there's the supply chain issues.

"From straws to chicken tenders, just all kinds of things across the board," said Citrano, who is also president of the Waco Restaurant Association.

Currently, George's is hiring 40 servers and 10 cooks between its two locations.

In the meantime, they're hoping customers will be understanding and patient.

Back at L&L Hawaiian BBQ, Garrison fears it would be devastating if another hard shut down happens.

Could you go through another one?

"Whew. I don't think so," Garrison said.