Restaurant Week gears up for business amid record high industry job openings – dayton.com

Twenty-three Dayton-area restaurants are part of this summer’s event, down from the 45 involved two years ago before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, according to the Miami Valley Restaurant Association.

Staff shortages are a prime reason for the drop, said Amy Zahora, MVRA executive director.

Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering chef, Luke Henry cooks pierogies in the kitchen Friday July 23, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Amber Rose Restaurant & Catering chef, Luke Henry cooks pierogies in the kitchen Friday July 23, 2021. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

“It’s a really busy week and a lot of them (having) staffing issues,” she said. “And they want to give new diners the best experience possible and they don’t feel like they can do that with the staffing issues.”

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As the economy has picked up, eateries have been among the businesses in recent months unable to keep pace with demand. That’s due — in part — to an extra $300 in unemployment benefits given out because of the coronavirus pandemic, Zahora said.

Despite steady gains, restaurants and bars nationwide were nearly 1.3 million jobs — or 10% — below pre-pandemic employment levels, according to the National Restaurant Association.

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The restaurants-and-accommodations sector had 1.2 million job openings on the last business day of May, the NRA said in citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data.

“It’s not for a lack of trying that restaurant employment remains well below pre-pandemic levels,” the association stated on its website. “Indeed, help wanted signs are more plentiful now than at any other point in recent history.”

Archer’s Tavern in Centerville is among businesses cutting operation hours due to lack of staff. Earlier this month Archer’s said labor shortages spurred its decision to — until further notice — eliminate breakfast and lunch hours in opening at 4 p.m. daily.

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Restaurant Week, which runs through Aug. 1, is a chance for area eateries to showcase their offerings. Participants serve three-course meals for $20.21, $25.21 and $30.21, according to the MVRA.

Among the those involved are seven restaurants in Dayton, four in Centerville/Washington Twp., three in Miamisburg/Miami Twp. and two in Troy. Beavercreek, Kettering, Germantown, Tipp City, Vandalia, West Carrollton and Xenia each have one.

The event’s sneak peek was canceled earlier this week due to labor shortages, Zahora said. The lack of staff is among the reasons she and others urge those wanting to dine out to make reservations.

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Staffing is not an issue for the Amber Rose in Dayton, which is taking part in Restaurant Week, owner Joe Castellano said.

The Valley Street restaurant has been able to maintain work crews through the pandemic, Castellano said, and is fully staffed.

“It’s been a challenge industry-wide. We’ve been fortunate,” he said. “Through the years we’ve been able to hire and retain a really great core staff. So we’ve been able to maintain that through the last year or so.

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“We have people that have worked here 20 years-plus, which isn’t necessarily unique in the industry. It might be a little uncommon,” Castellano added. “But we’ve done a nice job with that. We’ve got some great people. And then we’re always looking for people who we think will fit our processes and our environment and culture.”

Event participant Carvers Steaks & Chops in Centerville has staffing shortages in certain areas, Manager Ashley Hake said. The Miamisburg-Centerville Road business is “definitely are still looking for people for all positions,” she said.

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Hake said she would “highly suggest” restaurant goers make reservations as “we plan on bringing in a lot of extra business that we wouldn’t have brought in otherwise,” especially as next weekend nears.

Castellano expressed similar thoughts.

“People are definitely out and about, looking for things to do,” he said. “I expect it will be a really good turnout across the Miami Valley for Restaurant Week.”

BY THE NUMBERS

•1.3M: Jobs below pre-pandemic employment levels filled among eating and drinking businesses.

•343,000: Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry in June, 1.7 million fewer than a year prior.

•194,300: Net jobs added in those businesses last month.

•23: Businesses participating in the Dayton-area summer Restaurant Week.

SOURCES: National Restaurant Association, U.S. Labor Department and the Miami Valley Restaurant Association.