Employee Shortage Changes The Coast Restaurant Business

Many South Mississippi restaurants are taking action hoping to attract more employees. Because of a shortage of workers, owners are cutting hours and raising salaries. So far their efforts don't seem to be working very well.

When Jackie O'Neal left work Friday, December 30th, she expected she'd be back setting tables the following Monday.On Thursday, January 5th, O'Neal's Restaurant on Pass Road was still closed. One of the three people who work here hasn't been able to come in.

"We were supposed to be open today, but Deborah didn't get back in town, so we couldn't do it just the two of us," said O'Neal.

When restaurant is open, O'Neal says keeping up with all orders can be overwhelming.

"It is extremely busy and its very hard on us. That's why we only open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. right now. We can't hold up working as hard as we have to work," she said.

Brooklyn's Pizzeria in Gulfport has been fortunate to hold on to the kitchen staff, but not as lucky with delivery drivers.

"We have quit delivering pizzas," said Mark Cruthirds. "After 12 and a half years of delivering what we'd like to say is the best pizza on the coast, we've had to stop that."

Cruthirds says because his employees were well paid before the storm, the lure of higher wages and bonuses hasn't tempted them.. He feels for small business owners who can't afford large raises.

"I realize that after the storm they lost employees and now employees can pick and choose where they want to work and how much they can get paid."

Since Katrina, O'Neal's Restaurant has been paying more, but that hasn't helped.

"The reason for not working, I'm really not sure. But I think people just don't want to work right now."

Mark Cruthirds say despite cutting deliveries, his profits are up since the storm because there are fewer restaurants.

Meanwhile, the people at O'Neal's on Pass Road say they will try to open again on Friday.