Many new flavors are now available to Ardmore diners, but with so many restaurants either currently open or opening soon, employers are finding it a challenge to find staff. A quick scan through employment listings in The Ardmoreite, on @Ardmoreitejobs and on social media sites shows anecdotal evidence and accounts of understaffing abound across the city.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Carter County had a 4 percent unemployment rate in May, the last month for which data is available. While hundreds of people continue to look for work, hiring and retaining employees continue to remain an issue.
Lisa Berzas, owner of 2 Cajuns Southern Cuisine, believes that some people do not really want to work.
“One didn’t ever show up,” Berzas said. “A couple people showed up and didn’t show back up a couple days later,” she said.
This type of “ghosting” even applies to people coming in for interviews.
“I had one lady who got in touch with me on Facebook and said she was really interested in coming to work, so we set up an interview and she didn’t show,” said Harley Parreira, assistant manager at Popeyes. “She got in touch with me later and explained why she couldn’t come, so I told her that I understand and that I’d give her one more opportunity. I did and she never even showed up for that one.”
Berzas has had similar experiences in her restaurant and she explained how interviews with two different waitresses have gone.
“We had two waitresses at the first part of the week,” Berzas said. “My daughter called one of them back and she never did answer. The other said she had another interview somewhere else.”
Another problem facing Ardmore restauranteurs is potential employee drug usage. Heather Leese, assistant manager at Popeyes, did however want to set the record straight about a rumor floating around town in regards to their not finding employees due to so many people failing pre-employment drug screenings.
“We do not drug test unless there is an injury on site. It says so right in the handbook,” Leese said.
While most applicants are not drug tested, employers still use caution when making new hires.
“The only way I’m not going to hire you is if you come through my door and you have obviously just done drugs,” Parriera said.
Berzas at 2 Cajuns has seen people do just that when they come in for interviews.
“A couple of them showed up and they’re so out of their head they can hardly talk,” Berzas said. “They come in slurring their speech and you can tell they’re high.”
Needless to say, these people did not receive a call to come to work.
Another problem that seems to be one of the major factors is the rate of pay.
“I’m a small business, so I can’t pay as much as a big corporation,” Berzas said. “But if you come in and we sit down and you get a good vibe, I get a good vibe, maybe we can work something at a little bit less pay. But if that doesn’t work out, I understand because not everyone can make it with what I can afford to pay.”
The crew at Popeyes expressed similar problems.
“The pay is very low,” said Parreira.
This problem does not just apply to new businesses, but to those already well established. In fact, Heather Leese is starting out at Popeyes making the same pay she made at another fast food establishment after 12 years.
“It’s a lot more than flipping burgers,” Leese said. “You’re dealing with the public and people can be so rude. I’ve had people throw drinks at me. I’ve had people spit in my face, and I’ve had people call me horrible names.”
For those who are willing to work, however, both these establishments, like others across the city, can offer an important opportunity.
“We like to give people a chance, especially those who don’t get a chance” Leese said, before stating that the restaurant will consider hiring felons.
Berzas said similar things about her business. While she is more particular about her front of house staff because they are handling money, she is less picky when it comes to back of house employees.
“I’ll take any kitchen help,” she said. “I can teach them what they need to know because I’m in my kitchen. I’m not one of those owners or managers who’s not back there working.”