Chicago restaurants still struggling to hire amid economic rebound

Friday, August 6, 2021
Chicago restaurants still struggle with staffing
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Norman's Bistro in Kenwood has kept its customers through the pandemic, but they only have three cooks in the kitchen despite their best efforts to hire more.

CHICAGO -- The July jobs report is promising, showing economy recovery and hiring gaining speed, but restaurants are still hurting for worker.

Friday will be another long night at Norman's Bistro for Chef Juan. Once again, he's one of only three working the kitchen. Norman Bolden, the restaurant's owner, spent weeks looking for more cooks but simply hasn't been able to find somebody to hire for the job.

"As much effort has been put out, very little interest has come in," he said. "I can't speak ask to why, but folks are not interested in working right now for whatever reason."

Bolden said while his Kenwood eatery was able to keep most of its customers through the pandemic, staffing remains a serious issue. He's not just down three cooks, he needs to double his wait staff of five.

"We are challenged, is what we are, but we make do. We're operating with very few. It's been a real challenge to hire," Bolden said.

Bolden said he's hearing other businesses are still having trouble too, as July employment numbers exceeded the forecast, driven in part by the hospitality and restaurant industry.

And while all current employees at Norman's Bistro are vaccinated and continue to wear masks indoors, Bolden remains concerned abo the reemergence of COVID-19 through the highly contagious delta variant.

"Can I come through it again?" he wondered. "I'm not certain but I am hopeful, hoping we won't have to move in that direction."

Businesses like this one hope there'll be more interest in finding work once the assistance programs end, until then neighborhood restaurants will do their best to survive.