From Dona Lencha’s in Irving to Boulevardier in Bishop Arts, this Labor Day holiday is leaving little to celebrate.
“It’s a little ironic that on Labor Day we have restaurants that can’t find enough labor to open up for all the shifts we want,” said the owner of Boulevardier, Brooks Anderson.
The French bistro’s award-winning weekend brunch had to be scrapped over the summer, Anderson said.
“We just shut brunch down entirely and it certainly wasn’t for any lack of business,” said Anderson. “We just couldn’t find the staff for it to make any sense, so we stopped doing brunch which is really unfortunate.”
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Anderson has tried to meet a labor market that has empowered workers to demand higher wages and better working conditions.
Boulevardier has offered $17/hour wages for cooks. They’ve offered paid vacation time and health insurance, he said, and still no luck.
The restaurant tried using its current workforce, but overtime was crippling their bottom line.
“We’re doing all the things you’re supposed to do in a tight labor market, we just can’t find anyone to show up,” he said.
Dallas College professor of economics Carlos Martinez predicts the service industry will continue to struggle in the coming months.
“Service-related industries have to really compete now, and they’ve got tight profit margins,” he said. “The elephant in the room that people don’t like talking about is the undocumented workers.”
Martinez says a work visa program could help save the struggling restaurant and construction industries.
The country’s ‘participation rate,’ the number of people eligible and seeking employment, fell this year for the first time in decades, Martinez said.
There continues to be hesitation over the economy, leading families to cut back on spending.
The lack of traffic and a return to work has led some restaurants to cut back on the number of employees, cutting hours or jobs altogether, he said.
Dona Lencha’s in Irving had to close their Beltline location on Sundays to shuffle employees to the Story Road location.
“That way we could bring the staff from over there to here and focus the whole staff in one location to provide a better service to our customers,” said manager Maria Cruz. “It’s like the first time in history I have ever seen this kind of shortage on employees.”
Martinez predicts tough months ahead for the service industry.
“I think this is going to be a slow grind,” he said. “I think people, particularly entrepreneurs who are really under the gun to make ends meet, they’re really going to have to watch their spending.”