Restaurants offer cash incentives to attract workers amid shortage

Restaurant owners say they're still dealing with a staff shortage

Kingwood, TX – Business is booming at many restaurants throughout the Houston area, but an ongoing and unprecedented staffing shortage is forcing owners to get creative to incentivize job applicants.

“We have 11 employees now. We really need 18 to 20 employees to properly operate for our guests,” said restaurant owner RC Gallegos.

Gallegos owns RC’s Pizza in Kingwood and says his hours of operation are limited due to the staffing shortage.

“Every Tuesday, both of our locations are closed entirely because of the pandemic and short staffing,” he said. “During the school year, I would have to close the shop every day from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to give me enough time to pick up my son from school and take him home.”

Cameron James, president of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, said many of the “Help Wanted” signs now includes perks.

“We are seeing sign-on bonuses, we are seeing 401ks, we are seeing paid vacation, we are seeing more time off, and more flexible hours,” he said.

James also said the average pay of restaurant workers is not where it used to be, but wages are now higher. He says hourly workers on average get more than $10 an hour, and tipped employees are making $25 an hour.

“It really is the industry of opportunity. There has never been more opportunity in this industry than there is now,” James told KPRC 2. “Regardless of your skills, regardless of your education, there is always the opportunity for growth.”

Culinary Agents is a national professional networking and job matching site designed for the food, beverage, and hospitality industry.

“In Texas, we’re seeing similar trends across other major metro areas in the U.S. There’s high demand across all positions, front of the house, back of the house, hourly and salary,” said Alice Cheng, CEO and founder of Culinary Agents.

Cheng said applicants are actively looking at job postings.

“The applicant behavior has been consistently dipping and spiking since March with peaks during the month of May. In the past few weeks, we have seen applicant activity increase in Texas. It’s also worth noting that our data shows applicant interest in Texas jobs from Denver, Boulder, New York and Chicago,” said Cheng.

RC Gallegos would like to get back to his pre-pandemic hours of operation. He plans to come up with incentives to attract applicants.

“I will be sitting down and putting pen to paper and figuring out what makes sense,” he said.