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Ohio restaurants still struggling with staffing shortages, other effects of COVID

Smokehouse Brewing Company will close after this weekend because of staffing issues

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The hurdles keep coming for restaurants. Since the pandemic began, restaurants needed to rely on takeout, had to deal with new health provisions and some had to close for good.

Now, staffing issues are a big battle. Smokehouse Brewing Company is feeling the effects of this.

“After this weekend we'll be open [Thursday], Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we're going to shut down and just put all of our efforts into staffing up,” said Lenny Kolada, the founder of Smokehouse Brewing Company.

Kolada said the restaurant will need to close for a month to six weeks, so they can hire more staff.

“I’d say a couple of months is probably as far as we can go before we have to throw in the towel,” said Kolada.

“You're gonna walk into a restaurant and see tables not open because there aren't servers. It might take longer to get your food to get out of the kitchen because you don't have as many people at the back of the house working on things, and often times see restaurants not open the same hours,” said John Barker, the president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Barker said the average restaurant is short about 20% of the staff that they would like to see.

Restaurants like Smokehouse Brewing Company are being forced to hire applicants for more money. Cook applicants are being offered at least $6 more an hour since last year.

“No one is even batting an eye at that,” said Kolada.

But the ORA is recommending its members establish “really good cultures,” and that includes higher pay.

“Many of them have always done this but not everybody. We're trying to get a greater percentage of restaurants to make sure the compensation is competitive,” said Barker.

Barker is also telling restaurants to add benefits, including mental health services.

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