HOUSTON – As customers return to restaurants as more people get vaccinated, the restaurant industry in the greater Houston area is dealing with a major staffing shortage.
“We are so severely depressed in our workforce. You are seeing restaurants operate at limited hours, you’re seeing them not opening at all, you’re seeing all types of things,” said Cameron James, the president of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.
Cameron says pre-pandemic, the number of restaurant workers in his region reached 300,000. Now, he says those numbers have dropped to below 250,000 workers.
“You saw grocery stores coming in and poaching our employees,” said Cameron. “You saw Amazon, you saw third-party delivery drivers, so we lost a lot of our workforce over the last year.”
James says you also have to factor in unemployment benefits and stimulus checks to the loss of staff.
“It’s a really rough time right now, and honestly, it couldn’t come at a worse time to have these hiring issues because we are finally seeing a surge in business,” he said.
Longtime Houston restaurant owner Irma Galvan of Irma’s Original in downtown Houston says she’s missing half her staff.
“I get tired, but I have to keep on going,” said Galvan. “It’s very serious and very scary because we have nobody that wants to work.”