Staffing shortages continue to plague hospitality industry across the Triangle

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- If you work in hospitality, you understand Phyllis Rickard's story.

"As a director, sometimes I still pick up bar shifts because I might not have a bartender," said Phyllis, who is the director of food and beverage at the Unscripted Hotel in Durham.

She said the hotel and restaurants are hiring for all sorts of positions from the front desk to housekeeping.

"We have a lot of people that apply, set interviews and we never see them, it's the craziest thing," she said. "Like if I had all the people who actually applied who showed up, then I'd have a lot more staff than I do right now."

They've tried everything from sign-on bonuses to employee discounts to full benefits.

"Other than that, I don't know what to do," she said.

Labor shortages continue to plague the hospitality industry across the country and it's affecting businesses more locally of late.

Circus Restaurant on Wake Forest Road is closing next week. Main Street Grille in Wake Forest also shut its doors.

Mateo in downtown Durham had to close this past weekend because a number of staff members had COVID and they have no bench.

Southpoint Mall has "We're Hiring" signs in every window and other stores have abbreviated hours.

"I've never seen places say they're closed because there are not enough employees," said Stephanie Alston, who owns a Chapel Hill-based staffing agency. "We are living in unprecedented times and I don't know what's going to happen next."

Her agency is more focused on placing people in marketing and public relations jobs but she said the hospitality problems are ones she's seeing too.

"Companies are paying more money but also employees are extremely overworked because there are no other people coming in to help them out," Alston said.

Shannon Healy has closed Alley 26 on Mondays and Tuesdays and is only open until 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

"The staffing thing is hilarious if you're willing to laugh at yourself," Healy said. "Most of the folks in downtown Durham want to give this elevated thing but so many of the people who have experience in hospitality and service just left the industry. It's not that they're not working. They're just in other jobs now."

Staffing experts said it comes down to increasing salaries and flexibility for workers and helping those workers understand what is the true benefit for them.
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