Labor shortage affects local restaurants

Jenny’s Kuali, which will close at the end of this month, has been particularly hard hit by the labor shortage – and they are not the only ones.

Like many restaurateurs, Jenny Lim, who owns the restaurant with her husband Roy, said it has become too difficult to retain workers.

“Over the summer we hired people and they promised they were going to work when they went back to school,” Jenny Lim said. “When school started, they decided it was too much work and they didn’t want to continue.”

Jenny Lim had no plans to hire and train additional employees. She said if they had more help, they could continue to run the restaurant as usual.

However, aid is scattered across the region. On August 29, the The Independent Fiscal Office has released new data indicating Pennsylvania has lost 110,000 workers since the pandemic began.

“We’re just exhausted,” said Jenny Lim. “My husband and I work more than 12 hours a day. I was here at seven o’clock in the morning, gone to run some errands, and we’ll be here till about seven or eight o’clock at night.

Jenny Lim blames the restaurant’s closure in part on her and her husband’s decision to release the lease on the location.

She said she and her husband had been in the restaurant business for 50 years and wanted to slow down and retire.

“Even if you think we look young, we’re not,” said Jenny Lim. “We have aches here and there.”

For other South Side restaurants, the labor shortage presented employees with opportunities for promotion.

U&TEA is a Chinese restaurant that mainly serves Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine. The restaurant is located at 119 E 3rd St. in Bethlehem. (Xiaozhe Zhang/BW Team)

Jeppe Sorensen, Molinari’s front desk manager, said he has started to take on a bigger role during the pandemic.

“It opened up opportunities that wouldn’t have been there naturally because there would have been a lot of other people with more experience there to take the job from me,” Sorensen said.

Candido Rodriguez, Roasted’s front desk manager, said the shortage has allowed him to make an impact in his workplace.

“Part of me getting this role was the fact that I decided not to go all the way to unemployment,” Rodriguez said. “I just like to be busy. By going that extra mile and wanting to be available, I’ve shown bosses that not only do I have the work ethic, but that I’m going to keep putting my energy into the service. ‘company.

Yet, despite the opportunities the labor shortage has opened up, it’s challenging both restaurants.

Sorenson said the shortage is a vicious cycle.

“I can’t accept more business if I don’t have the hands to do the job,” Sorensen said. “At the same time, staff want to earn money through tips. If I can’t put cigarette butts in the seats then I can’t give them that extra money for tips.

At Molinari, Sorensen struggles to fill line cook and front desk staff positions.

For Roasted, Rodriguez said they were lucky to build a name big enough to receive frequent applications. However, the restaurant is struggling to fill its dishwasher position.

“We have this wonderful machine that works, but to get something as simple as a dishwasher, we wonder if we should go down the street or through Indeed,” Rodriguez said.

Sorenson said that due to the shortage, they have been forced to become more lenient with their application requirements. Prior to the shortage, they had the luxury of requiring applicants to have previous service experience.

Now, given the circumstances, Molinari’s has become an entry-level job in the food service industry for some, which means training employees from the ground up. He said it posed unique challenges for front desk managers.

“Other situations, such as salary increases at all levels in the service industry, have also weighed on the management of a place,” Sorensen said. “People charge more money to do the same job, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s capitalism for you. If you have a shortage, you get paid for that necessity.

Gladys T. Hensley