As economy heats up, employees hard to find

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As Americans resume parts of their lives put on pause during the pandemic, businesses have no shortage of customers lining up. For many, the problem continues to be in finding workers.

Texas Bistro saw a boom in demand for events such as in-house get-togethers, anniversaries and wedding rehearsals as weddings postponed in 2020 started to resume.

“Our biggest deal hasn’t been turnover, it’s been a combination of some record months here,” Texas Bistro chef and owner Collin Campion said. “The last three months have been outstanding. So our business has been growing since Abbott reopened the state.”

Campion said he tries to keep wages competitive while keeping businesses profitable. 

The new American restaurant has a staff of 22 with three positions open — part-time host, a server and part-time kitchen staff. 

Line cooks get paid $15 an hour, the other chef is salaried and bartenders get tips and are tipped out by servers. 

Campion said he is looking to see if they may need to increase menu prices to balance out the rise in pay. 

Some of that could be influenced by any minimum wage hikes that might come from the federal government, he said.

“We’re paying attention to if minimum wages go up and how that will affect restaurants, how we’re going to compensate the front of the house and spread the money around,” Campion said. “The servers are making pretty good money, we have a tiny kitchen crew so we try to take care of them as best as possible and make it very competitive for them to work here in terms of money.”

It’s not just restaurants that are looking to fill positions while also keeping an eye on the bottom line.

Go Green Botanicals is also struggling with hiring, needing an entry level worker for its New Braunfels location and a general manager for its pending second location.

Go Green Botanicals sells CBD and THC infused products. CBD and THC are natural compounds found in cannabis or hemp plants that do not give the user the same psychoactive effects as marijuana.

Products include gummies, flower and CBD oil.

Their entry-level workers start at $13 an hour — a recent bump from $12 an hour — and follow a bonus structure.

Owner Ben Sanchez said they think their wages are fair and are looking for the best employees they can find.

“We have something livable for themselves, for their family,” Sanchez said. “We don’t want them to be aggressive though and we want to make sure they’re providing the right product for the customer, not just throwing anything out there like ‘Here this may help you’ when really it may not.”

Sanchez said he is eyeing the wage discussion but would prefer not to raise product prices to increase wages.  

“Right now our prices are very convenient for our customers,” Sanchez said. “If we have to raise wages, we would have to raise our product prices and I don’t want to do that. I know inflation is there and it’s happening faster than we expected, but we would have to increase product prices and that’s really what we don’t want to do to our customers.”

Ben and his wife Karina, co-owner, said they are operating much of their website and other tasks without extra help, which has been difficult.

“We just kind of stopped putting as much energy and effort into seeking employees and went ahead and are handling it ourselves,” Ben Sanchez said. “We’re just looking for the right person, they’re motivated, self-motivated, understand cannabis and have a passion for it.” 

Karina Sanchez said many resumes they receive are not qualified because many are applying to receive unemployment benefits.

“We used to get a ton before COVID because this was an interesting job and a lot of people were trying to get in,” Karina Sanchez said. “This time around we hardly get any resumes. We did get two but you can kind of tell that they submitted the resume to receive unemployment, it’s been a lot harder this year.”

As the conversation surrounding wages continues, Campion said he is watching the headlines and knows they will need to raise their prices to pay competitive wages — as will other places.

“We still want to be as competitive as possible with all the competition here in town, but everyone’s going to be slowly raising their prices, from the big corporate fast food places to all the mom and pop spots,” Campion said. “It’s something that we’ll be competitive, but we have to try to be profitable and keep paying our bills.”

Inflation isn’t something that’s just limited to wages.

Campion said they are also struggling with supplier changes and rising prices on products from beef to to-go containers.

One menu item is the beef tenderloin, but Campion said they may have to raise the price or find a different cut of meat.

“So we’re seeing shortages of different products and supplies we use here to the growing prices across the board,” Campion said. “As everyone from Amazon to the different farms and ranches  — where all these products are coming from — all of that is going up so our expenses are going up.”

At Go Green Botanicals, suppliers are seeing an increase in demand while handling their own shortages, resulting in slow production. Ben Sanchez said his store will make big orders just in case production slows down. 

“Production is really slow and it’s happening across the nation,” Ben Sanchez said. “We’re out of some products for a good minute due to the lack of employment and production.”

 

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