Pandemic hangover hurts small business trying to hire restaurant workers

MISSOURI CITY, Texas (KTRK) -- King Bo restaurant has been around for more than 23 years. But its owner tells ABC13 she's closing up shop at this location, in large part because she cannot find people to work.

It's all over the entrance to King Bo: 'Take out only. No dining room staff. Now hiring.' The owner Miss Betty Mui used to have a dozen employees. Now she has four. When she reopened after closing for COVID-19 she couldn't find enough people to work her dining room or her kitchen.

"Now when the time goes," she told ABC13, "they find something to do besides being a waitress or waiter."

She is not alone. Some 750,000 Texas restaurant workers were furloughed or laid off during COVID restrictions and a lot of them did not come back. There are 150,000 open restaurant jobs in Texas, according to the Texas Restaurant Association's Emily Williams-Knight.

"We're seeing restaurants close," Williams-Knight said. "We're seeing restaurants shrink their menus. We're seeing them reduce their hours because they don't have enough staff and therefore they can't get back to 100 percent capacity."

The statistics bear out the anecdotal evidence. In September alone Workforce Solutions found the hospitality industry lost 1,500 jobs. In October, another 2,100. Add August to the mix and the losses set a new record.

"If there is evidence of the Great Resignation taking place here locally," said Workforce Solutions principal economist Parker Harvey, "and that evidence is hard to come by, then it might be in that space where you've got bars, restaurants, and hotels."

For Betty Mui, the answer was difficult but also simple. She has to leave the location she's called home and find something smaller she can afford.

"That's what we want is to find another location close by so I won't lose my loyal customers around here," she said. "And pay less rent so we can survive."

Otherwise, she closes down for good.

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