Restaurants in Western Pennsylvania are still struggling to get people back to work

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP — The president of the state’s restaurant association told Channel 11 that they’ve seen a slight uptick in job applications since the federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended 10 days ago.

However, restaurants are still struggling to get people back to work.

Domenico’s Ristorante in Cranberry Township is in desperate need of 15 employees, including waiters, dishwashers and pizza makers.

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“I cant tell you how many cooks I’ve hired starting at $20 an hour did not show up for their first day of work,” explained Felippo Lombardo of Domenico’s.

The staffing problem has caused the restaurant to close on Mondays and shorten their hours. Employees are also working overtime to keep up.

It’s a big problem the state’s Restaurant and Lodging Association is hoping to fix.

Unfortunately, leaders say a lot of people left the hospitality industry for other opportunities during the pandemic.

“The restaurant industry was almost the only industry totally shut down, so consequently found themselves stopping and starting jobs because restaurants were closed ... so many exited the industry,” explained the president of Pennsylvania’s Restaurant and Lodging Association, John Longstreet.

Right now the association is trying to attract more people to enter or reenter the industry. For example, leaders are trying to figure out a way for restaurants to provide more affordable health care plans.

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“Restaurants, because of their very thin profit margins, have not been able to offer the benefits other industries may do, particularly health benefits,” Longstreet said.