DANIA BEACH, Fla. – Many businesses in South Florida are struggling to fill low-paying jobs. John Conlon hopes this is temporary. Once this changes, the Historic Dockers Restaurant in Dania Beach will be able to reopen.
Conlon said there were plenty of customers at the restaurant despite the coronavirus pandemic. The release of the COVID-19 vaccine increased consumer confidence. The challenge, he said, was in the back of the house.
“We needed five cooks; we had two. They were working 12 hours a day, almost seven days a week and at some point, they just can’t do it anymore,” Conlon said.
Records show nearly half a million jobs are available statewide, but fewer than 150,000 Floridians are still collecting unemployment benefits. The “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs are abundant primarily in the service and hospitality industry.
Near the Historic Dockers Restaurant, the Wyndham is also struggling to fill key positions to keep the hotel afloat. The pressure was on. Tourists are coming down for Memorial Day weekend.
Peter Ricci is the director of the hospitality management program at Florida Atlantic University. He said the coronavirus pandemic prompted many workers to make changes to improve their quality of life. They also have had to find ways to protect their health and that of their families.
“It caused them to reflect for a long period of time about what they want to do with their lives and if these crazy hours and low pay are worthwhile,” Ricci said.
Conlon said the restaurant is going to push on with recruitment.
“You would put out ad, after ad, after ad and get zero response,” Conlon said. “Now, in the past couple of weeks, we are getting a response, but they are not showing up for the interview.”
Conlon anticipates the tide will turn over the next few weeks, so that will help them to reopen the restaurant and welcome back their loyal customers.
“Without a doubt, we’ll reopen Dockers,” Conlon said. “It’s just a matter of time.”