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'A mass exodus': North Florida restaurants, bars feeling extreme impacts of hiring shortages

Some local restaurants are even offering signing bonuses for new staff members.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As restaurants and bars struggle to rebound from the impacts of coronavirus restrictions and a population less inclined to dine out, they are also facing massive shortages when it comes to staffing.

Brittny Lowrey says she's been hiring for small businesses for over 15 years and right now, the North Florida restaurant and bar industry is seeing a mass exodus of available staff.

"This time of year (also known as tax return party time) is already the worst time of year to hire," wrote Brittny Lowrey in The Scoop with Jax Restaurant Reviews Facebook Group. "The pool is small. Add that to the stimulus checks and larger unemployment payouts and that has depleted the service industry pool further."

It's a double-edged sword. The impacts of the smaller hiring pool and a lack of available staff are being construed to diners as poor customer service, thus causing more people to stay home or order-in.

"Why didn't that wait staff refill your water fast enough? Because they're also running to-go, expo, and answering phones (and) waiting on more tables than they should be. Why did that ticket take 30 minutes out of the kitchen instead of 20? Because the Uber and call-in tickets are backed up and they're working two line cooks instead of four," explains Lowrey.

Some restaurants, such as The Bearded Pig, are even going as far as to offer $250 signing bonuses for staff members.

"This is our current reality, I know this because I'm living it at my restaurants, but also because I'm well connected in our industry," said Lowrey. "I speak with other restaurant owners daily. We're all in this spot. It's brutal."

Ben Peyton works at Buddha's Belly in Jacksonville Beach. He says that some places are having to close their doors due to lack of staff. 

"Word on the street is everyone is short-staffed and cant fill necessary positions," he said on Facebook. 

"Please tell your friends, your friend's kids, people on the street, anyone. We'd love to have help at Buddha's (we currently have 11 people total on staff), but I know Lulu's and the Bearded Pig definitely need help as well as several other restaurants. Positions are needed across the board on this beach, front and back of the house. Please help get the word out..."

If you're looking for a job in the hospitality industry, you can check out a list of places hiring by clicking here.

Restaurants looking for financial assistance can apply for funding here.