Here’s a tip: Waitstaff make more staying home.
New York City restaurants have been burned by a shortage of workers who say they’re better off collecting COVID-relief bill-enhanced unemployment checks — leaving some eateries unable to open at the newly expanded 75 percent indoor capacity Friday, owners told The Post.
Philippe Massoud, CEO of the Lebanese eatery Ilili, in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, said he’s “left no stone unturned” in an effort to fill 15 positions — but it’s tough to compete with the hefty unemployment checks.
“If I was working a back-breaking job and making $600 a week and I had had the option of making $600 and not breaking my back — the choice is obvious,” he said.
Massoud said the plan to kickstart the pandemic-ravaged economy — including by paying between $600 and $805 in state and federal unemployment benefits per week — has backfired in the Big Apple.
“The government unintentionally shot itself in the foot,” he said. “The stimulus plan is being completely undermined by the unemployment program.”
Philippe Massoud, CEO of the Lebanese eatery Ilili, said, “The stimulus plan is being completely undermined by the unemployment program.” REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
His restaurant on Fifth Avenue and East 27th Street can only open at 50 percent capacity, with no lunch service, because he’s short-staffed.
“The program should be stopped immediately,” he fumed. “We need to be encouraging people to work.”
Bobby Van’s Steakhouse also hasn’t been able to open two of its four upscale Manhattan restaurants due to the worker shortage, said owner Joseph Smith.
A waiter fills a glass in the Mediterranean seafood restaurant Estiatorio Milos at the Hudson Yards on September 30, 2020.
“There’s not enough manpower to stretch around at all our locations,” Smith said. “A minimum-wage employee, he could be a dishwasher … takes home about $530, $540. He makes $800 laying in bed, so why would he come into work?”
The steakhouse owner blamed beefed-up COVID-19 unemployment benefits — including from the New York State Unemployment Benefits and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation — for his struggle to fill positions.
“I know the [extra] $300 was given with good intentions … but it’s not really working that way,” he said. “Waiters don’t want to come back. It’s a real issue.”
Bobby Van’s Steakhouse owner Joseph Smith said a minimum-wage employee “makes $800 laying in bed, so why would he come into work?” REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
The waitstaff shortage comes as a dismal economic report released Friday revealed that far fewer jobs were added to the US last month than expected — just 266,000 compared to the 1 million that economists had predicted. Unemployment also rose to 6.1 percent.
“The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market,” the US Chamber tweeted Friday.
A waiter serves outdoor diners at the Benjamin SteakHouse restaurant in Midtown Manhattan on February 09, 2021.
Restaurateurs and economists say waitstaff — especially lower-wage workers such as dishwashers and busboys — make more money with unemployment checks than they would on the job.
“If you do that math, a lot of low-wage workers are encouraged to stay home to maximize their benefit,” Mark Jaffe, of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, told NY1.
Mark Jaffe, of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, said “a lot of low-wage workers are encouraged to stay home to maximize their benefit.”
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
As eateries across the country reopen at higher capacity limits, restaurateurs in states such as Florida are also struggling to fill restaurant positions.
“We’ve even hired an agency to try to find us employees, but the pool for employees right now is very low, there’s not enough people out there,” Carmelo LaMotta, owner of LaMotta’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant in Cape Coral, Florida, told FOX 4.
Restaurateurs in states such as Florida are also struggling to fill waitress and dishwasher positions.
“We’ve even hired an agency to try to find us employees, but the pool for employees right now is very low, there’s not enough people out there,” he said.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher because the more money they keep giving to the people for stimulus checks, they’re going to sit at home and make more money that way.”