End of unemployment benefits has some restaurant owners hoping for staff increase

Local News

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — Enhanced federal unemployment benefits have come to an end in Colorado, leaving restaurant owners hoping they could see a spike in new applications.

The service industry, still recovering financially from the pandemic, continues to struggle to find workers. Evan Lombardi, co-owner of Clear Creek Cidery and Eatery says they’re offering a $500 bonus to all employees who stay through the busy season, but haven’t been successful in retaining staff.

“It could be unemployment, it could be that people found different avenues of income or just people don’t want to work in restaurants anymore. I’m not 100% sure,” said Lombardi.

Lombardi says he and his business partner have had to take on extra responsibilities.

“It’s been a little more over the top. I’ve been pushing 85 hours a week for the last 10 months or so. It’s been brutal, it’s been such a grind,” said Lombardi.

A recent survey from the Colorado Restaurant Association shows many restaurants are getting creative to attract workers.

The survey shows nine out of 10 restaurants changed business practices or wages to find employees. One out of every four restaurants currently offers retention or hiring bonuses, and nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they added new benefits like more paid time off, medical and dental insurance.

Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of CRA, says the end of enhanced unemployment benefits could give the industry a boost.

“We certainly hope so, we certainly hope to see more people decide that it makes more sense to go back to work but really only time will tell,” said Riggs.

Riggs says it’s likely a variety of factors causing the current labor shortage.

“I think it’s a combination of the unemployment benefits ending that might make a difference. But we’re also seeing people that did leave the workforce all together that found different jobs where they can work from home, they may have loved ones who are high-risk or can’t get vaccinated. And these are frontline jobs,” said Riggs.

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