‘Chefs are non-existent,’ says local restaurant owner
Over the past nine months, Alexander Hall has opened two new restaurants in Clive: Franka Pizzeria and St. Kilda Bakery & Cafe.
Although Hall was able to find staff to work in the dining room of the two Clive restaurants and its three other locations, it was difficult to find and keep chefs and other staff “in the back”. of the House”.
“Chiefs are non-existent,” Hall said during the Business Record’s Project515 virtual discussion in early June about the retail and service sectors. “We could hire 10 chefs right now. We had the problem where they will come for the interview, they will come for the trial, we offer them a job and they just don’t show up.
“We hired three people [recently] and they didn’t show up on opening day.
The struggle to find restaurant staff is not unique to Hall. Restaurants across the country are going through similar experiences.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for April, 5.6% of people who worked in the accommodation and food industry quit their jobs, the highest percentage of any industry. listed. (The quit rate for all private industry sectors in April was 3.2%).
Specifically, between December 2021 and April 2022, nearly 3.9 million people who had worked in accommodation and food left their jobs. The professional and business services sector had the second highest number of job leavers at 3.7 million.
The job creation rate in the accommodation and food services sectors was 9.9% and 9.2% in March and April, respectively, according to the Labor Department. The rates were the highest of all the sectors tracked.
“Nobody has seen anything like this before,” said Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, in a separate interview. “It’s not even a question of wages anymore. Our salaries are steadily increasing. … People don’t want to come back to work in our industry.
Hall, who operates three St. Kilda and two Franka pizzerias in the Des Moines area, said people who work in restaurant kitchens work long hours. He said he also works five days a week to meet needs at the five restaurants.
“What’s happening now is other restaurant owners are starting to overpay for labor because they’re trying to get labor, and that’s driving down labor costs. work,” Hall said. “We all try… just to keep the employees we have very happy.”
As of the end of last week, online recruitment platform Indeed.com listed 38 full-time job openings for area chefs, with annual salaries ranging from $35,000 to $100,000. Several ads said they were “hiring urgently.”
Dunker said it’s becoming increasingly common for restaurant managers to try to alienate workers from their competitors with attractive benefits and higher salaries. For a time, restaurants will be able to charge higher prices to cover wage inflation and soaring food and supply costs, she said.
“We’re starting to approach that threshold of what people will pay for a pizza or a sandwich,” Dunker said. “Right now, we’re not seeing shrunken bodies coming through the doors. [Customers] order differently: they drink water. They don’t get an appetizer. They don’t tip as generously.
“They are still going out, but that may change. And then we have many other problems.
Project515 panelists talk about Valley Junction, East Village
In early June, The Business Record hosted a Project515 virtual roundtable on the retail and service sector. The conversation was moderated by Senior Writer Kathy Bolten. Here are excerpts from the panelists’ responses to the questions posed to them.
Tyler and Aaron, you both attended the International Council of Shopping Centers real estate convention in Las Vegas in May. Share some of your best takeaways from this convention.
Aaron Hyde: The whole story of store closures is behind us. Now we’re looking forward to “Hey, we need to open physical stores” because we need that customer engagement, that customer experience, but also the service – the omnichannel systems that these retailers have in place. The second thing we heard was about the supply chain. [Retailers] try to open X number of stores but [they are saying], “We don’t know when we’re going to open stores because we don’t know how long it will take to get our HVAC units or all the products we need to open our stores.” The two takeaways are that people are opening stores and they just don’t know when they can open them.
Tyler Dingel: I think the biggest issue we’re having right now is… what the cost of new construction has done to the market. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a 44% increase in retail sales, which is huge. Retailers are doing well. …At the same time, we have seen a 4% increase in the number of commercial spaces available. The available space has really not kept up. You can also look around our market and see that we haven’t had a lot of big new developments in retail.
You have some small strip malls, but those big retail developments haven’t happened. One of the biggest hurdles is getting those tenants to understand that if you want to be in a new store in a new market, the cost will be a bit more than what you’re used to paying in a product that was 60% of the cost five years ago.
Cassie, tell us a bit about that and the weather or mood of East Village business owners right now.
Cassie Sampson: [On a nice day,] there is a lot of traffic on the sidewalks. The restaurants are busy. [East Village Spa] is at full capacity just about every day of the week. We have a waiting list of 8-10 people every day of the week, plus a longer waiting list for Saturdays. We are about full, but we still have COVID employees going out for 10 days at a time. … It’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge in the East Village.
From time to time you will see an inscription indicating that a company is closed early due to a lack of staff. We all notice that some of our busiest days change. Our weekends are always busy, but I think with people working from home [options] they can sneak in on a shopping spree on a Tuesday afternoon or come to the spa on a Thursday at 3 p.m., then go home and work.
Steve, talk a bit about the changes happening in the West Des Moines’ Valley Junction shopping district.
Steve Frevert: Over the past two years we have seen a number of mixed-use buildings go up [with commercial on the ground level and residential on upper levels]. First National Bank will soon open its new building in Fifth and Elm. At 315 Fifth [St.] is a mixed-use building with 10 apartments which I believe are all rented, and a wealth management company is moving into the second floor and we will have our first bookstore [in Valley Junction] first floor. There will also be a bar area. …
The City of West Des Moines Master Plan Steering Committee has done a lot of work and come up with design guidelines that will really guide the look of the buildings that are being built while still preserving some of the historic character that we have. It’s really crucial.
Panelists spoke about the East Village, an area between the State Capitol complex and the Des Moines River that includes retail businesses, service-oriented businesses, restaurants and bars.
Alexander Room: East Village is by far my worst performing store. This store, before COVID, we moved from one brand to another, thinking the pizza would be better. … [A St. Kilda’s Cafe had been located at 111 E. Grand Ave. Now Franka Pizzeria is located in the space.]
We lost a lot of lunches. We used to have a very good lunch company there. We do good business at night and on weekends, but noon business – there’s not a single car parked on this whole street, especially in the winter. We struggled in the East Village. … The East Village really needs to address its identity. …Valley Junction has done a great job of getting everyone to work as a team. The East Village doesn’t seem to have as good leadership as Valley Junction. … We would like to see more retail, [but] the problem is that rental rates are so high that only restaurants can enter. Retail is struggling to pay $30 a foot. So they put more restaurants and that dilutes the clientele. … [The East Village] needs more retail. We need hair salons. We need different things to generate more traffic.
Cassie Sampson: Valley Junction is lucky to have Steve [Frevert]. The East Village has no office. We have no employees. … They are just volunteer-based organizations. It is a differentiating part of the Village. I have been here since 2007.
[There were a lot of unique businesses in the East Village’s early days, such as Raygun, Gong Fu Tea and others, Sampson said.] They were the visionaries. They made [the East Village] cool. … The unfortunate irony is when a neighborhood becomes really desirable … it drives up rental rates … and it’s harder to attract more businesses like the ones that were visionaries.