With just four employees and an overwhelming amount of customers, Chef Dallas McGarity faced a difficult decision: stay open and run his limited staff ragged or close Portage House just as business was picking up.He chose the latter.”It was stressing me out, it was stressing my staff out… it was just too much to bear for the staff we had on,” McGarity said.Portage House, a riverside restaurant in Jeffersonville, Indiana, has been trying to hire more employees since the first of the year, McGarity said in an interview Tuesday. Only a few people have applied, and even less actually showed up for an interview.The temporary closure of Portage House is indicative of a growing dilemma for the food and beverage industry. After a year of financial challenges and skeleton crews due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, area restaurants are now staring down the barrel of a new crisis: finding enough employees to keep up with pent-up demand.It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the vast majority of Louisville area restaurants are hiring right now, from small, independently-owned eateries to national restaurant chains.And local restaurants aren’t alone in their efforts to bring on more staff.According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant and bars added 176,000 jobs in March alone, and more than 300,000 jobs in February. Nationwide, there are 6.9 million people not in the workforce that reportedly want a job, which is up by 1.8 million since February 2020.So where is the disconnect?McGarity believes the staffing issue stems from combination of factors. He said some folks are fearful of returning to a public-facing business during the pandemic, some have found jobs outside of the food and beverage industry and others are just riding out their unemployment benefits.Thomas Harris, owner of That’s My Dog in Jeffersonville, said he’s actually gotten applications with fake emails and phone numbers that he believes people are using for unemployment purposes.”The government giving that extra money each week gives them incentive to stay home,” he said. “I can’t get people to work because it’s easier for them to stay home and watch Netflix and get paid for it. It’s been absolutely killing me.”McGarity said he is considering changing Portage House’s model to a counter service operation too.Gary Fox, president of Apron Inc., said his organization is looking for ways to help the staffing situation. The Louisville-based nonprofit has been assisting independent restaurant employees throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, giving out more than 700 relief grants.Click here to read more about the challenges the businesses are facing from Louisville Business First.

With just four employees and an overwhelming amount of customers, Chef Dallas McGarity faced a difficult decision: stay open and run his limited staff ragged or close Portage House just as business was picking up.

He chose the latter.

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“It was stressing me out, it was stressing my staff out… it was just too much to bear for the staff we had on,” McGarity said.

Portage House, a riverside restaurant in Jeffersonville, Indiana, has been trying to hire more employees since the first of the year, McGarity said in an interview Tuesday. Only a few people have applied, and even less actually showed up for an interview.

The temporary closure of Portage House is indicative of a growing dilemma for the food and beverage industry. After a year of financial challenges and skeleton crews due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, area restaurants are now staring down the barrel of a new crisis: finding enough employees to keep up with pent-up demand.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the vast majority of Louisville area restaurants are hiring right now, from small, independently-owned eateries to national restaurant chains.

And local restaurants aren’t alone in their efforts to bring on more staff.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant and bars added 176,000 jobs in March alone, and more than 300,000 jobs in February. Nationwide, there are 6.9 million people not in the workforce that reportedly want a job, which is up by 1.8 million since February 2020.

So where is the disconnect?

McGarity believes the staffing issue stems from combination of factors. He said some folks are fearful of returning to a public-facing business during the pandemic, some have found jobs outside of the food and beverage industry and others are just riding out their unemployment benefits.

Thomas Harris, owner of That’s My Dog in Jeffersonville, said he’s actually gotten applications with fake emails and phone numbers that he believes people are using for unemployment purposes.

“The government giving [unemployed people] that extra money each week gives them incentive to stay home,” he said. “I can’t get people to work because it’s easier for them to stay home and watch Netflix and get paid for it. It’s been absolutely killing me.”

McGarity said he is considering changing Portage House’s model to a counter service operation too.

Gary Fox, president of Apron Inc., said his organization is looking for ways to help the staffing situation. The Louisville-based nonprofit has been assisting independent restaurant employees throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, giving out more than 700 relief grants.

Click here to read more about the challenges the businesses are facing from Louisville Business First.

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