Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
And maybe Wednesday too.
Call them signs of the days of the pandemic – sure-fire indicators of a labor shortage in New Mexico’s restaurant industry.
The problem became so serious that the New Mexico Restaurant Association launched an Internet advertising campaign to attract both unemployed former employees and newcomers eager to land one.
The “Hungry for Success” campaign includes a 30-second promotional video showing people at work in various restaurant jobs.
“If you’re a successful New Mexican, the New Mexico Restaurant Association has plenty of table space for you,” the narrator says at the start of the spot.
The association’s advertising and accompanying flyer created on-the-job training opportunities, a “fast-paced” work environment, and the fact that one-third of all Americans reported that their first job was in a restaurant.
Carol Wight, executive director of the restaurant association, said the campaign’s goal was “to get people to watch the restaurant industry as they re-enter the workforce.”
She said that while people may have taken the time to rethink their career choices while they were unemployed, she hopes the campaign convinces those looking for work “restaurants are the place to be. go”.
She said that with so many restaurants in the state needing help, the chances of getting a job – even for those who have never worked in a restaurant or don’t have a college degree. secondary – are “better than 50-50”.
The campaign is timed to attract attention as September 4 approaches – the date on which federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic end. Workers can get another weekly unemployment check after that, but many will be looking for work by mid-September.
According to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, as of mid-August, 5,800 unemployed workers were in the service and food preparation category. The peak unemployment for this industry was 23,500 in June 2020.
Wight said those workers were made redundant as businesses shut down during the pandemic.
“God bless them,” she said of these employees. “We closed three, four different times last year, and they were fired. They can be a little shy about coming back to work. “
Association members are planning a webinar meeting on Wednesday with Ricky Serna, head of Workforce Solutions, to talk about what the end of federal unemployment benefits may mean to fill positions in the restaurant industry and how it l Serna’s agency can help connect people looking for a job. .
The association also collects information about job openings at restaurants statewide and posts it on a job search site to encourage people to apply for those openings.
Working at the reception of the Inn of the Governors, Sam Gerberding saw with his own eyes the astonished looks on visitors’ faces when he told them that there aren’t many restaurants in Santa Fe open on Mondays. and Tuesdays.
The longtime Inn of the Governors employee and Greater Santa Fe Restaurant Association officer is well aware of staff shortages affecting restaurant operations in the city and elsewhere. He said when he explains the challenge to visitors – most of whom have heard of similar issues in other parts of the country – they understand it.
“They say, ‘Oh, that makes sense,'” Gerberding said in a telephone interview on Monday.
He said he can usually help them find one of the few restaurants that stay open on Monday or Tuesday.
Gerberding said restaurant employers need to make sure they don’t overload their current employees.
“We certainly pay a lot of overtime; we have a lot of employees who work very, very hard, ”he said. “It’s a big risk. Overtime money is real – a big sum that, if I could avoid it, I would prefer. And seeing my staff feeling exhausted is difficult.
He said it would be interesting to see how the association’s efforts to attract employees play out as coronavirus infections continue to persist, if not increase, statewide. This uncertainty could result in less travel, less business and less need for as many employees, especially as the tourist season begins to decline.
“We’re back in a state of ‘I don’t know what to do’,” he said.
Molly Ryckman, vice president of sales and marketing for Heritage Hotels & Resorts, said there were about 250 positions available at the 13 New Mexico companies in her organization.
She said she supported the association’s efforts to hire more people.
“We are in a crisis everywhere,” she said. “All of our restaurants have been affected by limited staff and the lack of people returning to work. “
Gerberding, who has worked at the Inn of the Governors for 17 years and in the restaurant industry for 25 years, said opportunities for success and advancement abound for those willing to give it a try.
“It’s not an easy job,” he says. “It’s not. It’s a very rewarding job. If you approach it from a place of service and look at the positive that you would get from that effort, this is a great opportunity.