With the pandemic winding down (or ramping up again?), businesses are trying to get back to normal but staffing shortages are making it near impossible. Restrictions have been lifted for some time, making restaurants and bars happening places again. But there is definitely a difference in service these days with patrons experiencing lengthy wait times for their food and drink, and some places are having to close altogether because there simply aren't enough employees to keep them running. There has been a narrative running that people simply don't want to work and are living off unemployment because they're lazy. But now that unemployment in Idaho has been reduced and workers are still not returning to jobs, it begs the question: Are they lazy, or are the jobs they were working not providing livable wages?
It's the food and beverage industry where we're really seeing staff shortages. My husband manages a local bar in Boise and a steakhouse and is working 6 days a week, open to close because they are short staffed. In fact, people have been quitting for jobs not in food and beverage citing wages not being worth it. And as much as he loves his job and has no intention of leaving, he admits that the former employees aren't wrong.
Especially working front of house (servers, hosts, bussers, bartenders), those wages are taxed heavily under the assumption the employee is making tips. In Idaho an employer can pay tipped employees just $3.35 an hour. And the employee's tips in combination with hourly wage only have to add up to $7.25 an hour to be valid. Well, the livable wage in Idaho currently sits at $46,000 per year. In order to achieve that you'd have to make a little over $22 an hour working 40 hours a week to achieve.
My guess is these employees have opted for higher paying jobs in other sectors, leaving food service behind completely or keeping it only as a part time job. Enough people do that, then of course our favorite places to dine are going to be short staffed. It might be time to raise wages or start targeting teens who just need pocket change.
Coa De Jima is currently hiring for all front of house and back of house positions, with line cook topping out at a possible $20 an hour. That's the closest to a livable hourly wage of any position listed. And that's honestly the norm. But until that changes, I'm not sure we'll be seeing fully staffed establishments any time soon.