Labor shortage in Las Vegas restaurants

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McDonald's on Tropicana Ave. and Maryland Parkway is hiring new employees. Photo by Jimmy Romo.

Restaurants in the Las Vegas Valley are currently facing a labor shortage crisis, and have been for a while now. The reopening of businesses following Gov. Steve Sisolak’s suspension of COVID-19 restrictions on June 1, 2021 had brought hope to restaurant owners, yet things did not turn out as expected. 

Despite its horrors and obstacles, the pandemic prompted countless individuals to seek new and more inventive ways of making a living. Some started new careers and business ventures, while others chose to pursue higher goals.

This negatively impacted restaurant owners, who are now unable to meet the desires or conditions of their increasingly demanding personnel. 

Although jobs are plentiful at the moment, there is a low supply of workers who are on the search for more flexible schedules and higher-paying jobs.

According to the sub-state press release published in August of this year, the unemployment rate in Las Vegas dropped to 9.4 percent in July 2021, from 9.6 percent in June 2021 and 19.6 percent in July 2020. 

Therefore, unemployment remains a problem, threatening the survival of small and big restaurant owners alike in Las Vegas.  

Mark Steele, the founder of the Restaurant Hospitality Institute, in an interview with FOX5, said, “There’s restaurants and casinos that people who would have given an arm and a leg to work for two years ago, and now are begging for employees.” 

The Las Vegas Sun reports that, at the end of August, there were 10.4 million available jobs, up from 11.1 million the previous month, the most on record since at least December 2000, when the government began keeping track of that statistic.

As a result of the labor shortage, current employees are being overworked and some enterprises have, or may, be forced to close down. 

Linda Kutcher, the owner of a restaurant in the Valley, said she has been hunting for employees for months, reported by KTNV. She further elaborates by stating, “Maybe we will get 12 applicants for a position and no one will come in. No one will even return a call.” 

Not only do her present staff work extra hours, but she also works alongside them to provide her employees with a one-day break from labor. Both the employees’ and the owners’ plates are currently full, making the service industry increasingly stressful.

Another owner, Sin City Smokers Barbecue and Catering owner Steve Overlay shared his story with FOX5, explaining how his business went out due to the low supply of employees. 

Overlay says, “I’ve probably scheduled, I’m going to say, around 150 interviews in the last year, and spoke to people that genuinely seemed excited, said they knew where we are, they would be here, and thank you very much. And then you sit out there waiting and no one shows up.”

The Las Vegas Valley is notable for its various entertainment and dining choices. Tourists not only find delight and color in these locations, but are also exposed to different areas that are tailored to their tastes and interests.  

The loss of these types of spaces, or their deterioration in quality, would be devastating to the culinary and entertainment businesses in Las Vegas, casting them in a negative light for years to come.

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