Restaurants in the Boston area are at an insane pace to occupy their bars and kitchens while vaccinations and warm weather pull customers back to their tables.
“You could ask any chef in Boston what they do. What they don’t do is the question. We scream down the street, we post Facebook ads with headhunters. You name it, we do it, ”said Jason Santos, Head Chef at Back Bay Restaurants Buttermilk & Bourbon and Citrus & Salt.
Restaurants that closed during the winter to cut costs during the pandemic are finally reopening, and the return of patio season has drawn more corona-wary diners back.
Santos is making extra efforts to hire kitchen staff and waiters as he prepares to open a new buttermilk and bourbon restaurant in Watertown. He’s currently pulling staff from his other two restaurants to help on board the third location, but that’s not sustainable.
He is far from being alone. As of April 8, the Craigslist Boston website displayed more than 70 help search ads from local restaurants.
“That’s a common problem they all have: getting help,” said George Regan, whose public relations firm serves numerous restaurants and hotels in the area. “To bring help back, you have to pay more and pass the increase on to customers. The first problem was that they weren’t occupied. Now they are busy, but they cannot get any help. “
Dan Henn, managing partner of Hawkeye Restaurants Group, said much of the area’s talent pool for part-time jobs left town when universities went online because of the pandemic.
“Once classes were canceled or out of the way, it didn’t make sense to go back to Boston and pay the rent just to wait for the restaurants to reopen,” he said.
Henn reopens Worden Hall in South Boston on Monday after opening both Five Horses Tavern locations. He will need more staff to reopen Somerville Restaurant Elm Street Taproom later this month. He said the competition for experienced employees is fierce and for the first time they won’t get shows about scheduled job interviews.
Some aspiring employees still have coronavirus concerns, hiring managers said.
“Some employees don’t return until they’re fully vaccinated,” Sierra Papuga, catering and events director at Fenway’s Sweet Cheeks grill, told the Herald.
“When it comes to managers, we even look outside of Boston to see if there is anyone considering taking a move,” said Henn.
But after getting through the year, Henn said customer swarms were a manageable problem.
“I can’t wait to hear this hum from people enjoying themselves. It’s been quiet too long, ”he said.