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Cleveland restaurants make strides to recover from pandemic staffing shortages

Posted at 6:36 AM, Jun 17, 2024

CLEVELAND — Last July, we reported that post-pandemic staffing shortages were still affecting restaurants in and around Cleveland.

The industry saw a significant exodus of workers and numerous restaurant closures.

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This year, the situation has reversed, with many establishments facing an influx of job applications.

“For a lot of people— they weren’t sure if we were going to open back up restaurants,” said Greg Wimer, general manager of Alley Cat Oyster Bar. Staffing his restaurant wasn’t easy during the pandemic, but things have turned around.

“I’d say two years ago it was like a fight for staff, and now I have so much staff that I’m needing to tell people I’m not hiring, which is interesting.”

Wimer receives a high volume of applications, many from college graduates with serving or bartending experience, all eager to benefit from the lucrative opportunities in the industry.

“You can make a lot of money really quick. I think that’s what draws people to it,” Wimer said.

He’s not alone. According to the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance, there are currently 560,000 people working in the industry in Ohio.

Ashley Gademer, general manager at ZHUG, a Mediterranean restaurant in Cleveland Heights, shares a similar sentiment.

“We’ve just created such a beautiful vibrant environment and have such amazing dishes. I feel like it just draws people in,” she said.

Though you may have to wait to be seated, it’s due to the experience and not a lack of staff.

“It seems like everything has become a lot better than it was even just a year ago.”

Restaurants are now receiving dozens of applications for a single job listing.

“It really has become a competition for the job. Which in the past it wasn't, it was just I will take anyone I can get,” Wimer said.

This shift is noticeable with faster service, happier staff, and overall better dining experiences.

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