Editor's Note: High Plains Pundit is also working on a story about the situation in Amarillo.
If you go to a restaurant in Lubbock, you may notice you’ll be waiting a little longer to get seated.
That’s because even though restaurants can operate at 100 percent, some can’t seat every table.
At Triple J Chophouse and Brew Co., owner Joe Keller says that’s because too many people won’t come back to work.
“Why would they want to come to work and sweat and get dirty and do their job when they can stay home and make the same amount of money? I think the stimulus and the unemployment’s really hurting our economy a lot,” Keller said.
Keller says the restaurant has dropped to opening 5 days a week because it doesn’t have the manpower to operate at 100 percent.
He says part of the hiring problem is stimulus and unemployment money.
“And those that need it, I understand. But, those that are kind of riding the system, I wish it would try to force them back into the work, into the workplace,” Keller added.
He says it’s not just Triple J that’s hurting though, it’s a city-wide issue.
“I talked to Jorge from Albarran’s yesterday and he told me he was struggling with all his kitchen guys and my brother opened a new Bigham’s on Milwaukee and he’s struggling. He’s four or five people short every day,” Keller explained.
“Unfortunately with the way the economy is right now there’s not enough employees to drive all the businesses that are wanting to get back,” Keith Rogers, general manager at Twisted Root Burger Co. said.
“It’s a national crisis and it’s made even more exciting in town because we’ve had two large restaurants open up at the mall and they’ve hired complete, full staffs,” Loyd L. Turner, president and CEO at Orlando’s and Caprock Cafe said.
Turner says it’s a perfect storm, as customers with cabin fever are heading out to eat in droves.
“It has been a problem, but not as much as not having the people there. It’s just we’re full and it got busy really quickly and people just have to wait. But, that’s generally true at every restaurant in town, I think,” Turner added.
Keller says Triple J will set up interviews with the unemployment office, because those on benefits have to prove they’re actively searching for a job, but people aren’t showing up.
“I think that’s a flaw in the system. They’re signing all the paperwork, but we don’t see the whites of their eyes,” Keller said.
Turner hopes the tides will turn as unemployment benefits are set to end in September.
“And as you know in this town, when over 30,000 kids come back to town, I think there’ll be plenty of people that want a job,” Turner said.
Turner and Keller are asking for patience when you head out to a restaurant, and to understand that businesses are doing the best they can with the resources they have.
Both restaurants have openings all across the board, but are focused on hiring cooks and dishwashers.