Restaurant owners struggle to find staff as NC continues to lift COVID-19 restrictions

Greenville

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Many businesses have seen an uptick in foot traffic since the state loosened COVID-19 restrictions last week.

Some owners are having a hard time handling the extra business.

Basil’s in Greenville will be closed on Mondays for the foreseeable future. Owner Jeremy Spengeman said that’s due to not having enough staff as restaurants continue to increase capacity and welcome more customers.

“That’s the place that was easiest for us to take off of the workweek, and where we’re losing the least amount of profitability,” said Spengeman.

Spengeman said he’s seen a steady stream of people ordering from his restaurant throughout the pandemic.

“The business has come back, it’s just now it’s a little bit different,” he said. “Pre-COVID, we probably did about 20 percent carryout. Now, we’re probably 50 percent of our orders are carryout.”

Now, his concern is not lack of revenue. It’s lack of resources.

“Even if I opened up the tables, I don’t have anybody to serve them,” said Spengeman.

Basil’s is short on cooks and waiters.

“You’re losing out on business when you’re not answering the phone,” said Spengeman. “At the same time, we have to worry about the health and sanity and mental stability of our staff about how much can one actually work before it’s too much.”

Spengeman doesn’t want to over-work his staff or tarnish his reputation.

“I don’t want to risk the product and 20 years of being known to put out a certain quality and a certain consistency and then not be able to do that,” he said.

Spengeman said it isn’t easy to find employees right now, especially with the benefits of unemployment.

“Even if I was paying someone $18 an hour, for an additional 80 bucks a week are you going to come work 40 hours or are you going to sit at home?” he said.

Spengeman has a message for the community as he continues to look for help.

“Just eat local,” he said.

Spengeman said he will wait about four weeks before deciding whether to reopen on Mondays. He is actively hiring cooks and wait staff.

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