SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has rebounded so well from the pandemic that the state currently has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.
But it’s having an unexpected impact on the restaurant industry – they’re having a hard time finding people to fill vacancies.
“This is the first one I’ve seen,” said Michael McHenry, owner of The McHenry Group. “Once our dining capacities were opened up, and particularly in our suburban restaurants where the community was like, ‘We want to sit down, we want to come in,’ we found ourselves in a scenario where our dining rooms were food filled up faster than we could take care of our customers – which is a big problem to have.
While this is a sign of a good recovery from the pandemic, it is a double-edged sword.
And it’s not just McHenry’s restaurants.
The Department of Workforce Services and the Utah Restaurant Association are also speaking out on the matter.
“The average restaurant is short about 25 percent,” McHenry said, and it adds up. “We’re talking about 25,000 or more jobs in our industry alone.”
McHenry’s dining group includes restaurants across the state, like Oak Wood Fire Kitchen in Draper, which FOX 13 visited on Friday.
He says there are around 60 vacancies between Oak Wood Fire Kitchen, Ginger Street, Dirty Bird and a brand new restaurant called Sundays Best which will be opening in a few weeks.
From the management team to the waiters to the cooks, McHenry explained that “more than half of the positions we hold full-time [are] earn over $ 45,000 per year. “
Ultimately, filling all of these positions will be a challenge that will take time.
“It’s an exciting challenge, but it’s always a challenge,” said McHenry. “I didn’t expect the lack of available manpower and talent to be our biggest opportunity.”
During this period of growth, McHenry says longer wait times could be part of the game as restaurants fill up quickly, so he asks Utahns to be patient as they work to fill the vacancies.