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Foodservice award winners share labor pain

Many industries are having trouble finding adequate labor, but the foodservice industry has been hit harder as it ramps up to normal levels from COVID restrictions.

A handful of United Fresh BB #:145458 2021 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award winners shared their labor experiences during a July 13 webinar.

Chef Stephen Palm, director of culinary for Lifeworks Restaurant Group, Beaverton, OR, said as his group gets closer to full capacity, a lack of workers simply can’t be an excuse for not filling orders.

He said he views it as more important to keep his current staff than have success recruiting new ones.

“We’re not going to reduce seating or business,” Palm said. “It’s crucial to engage employees and keep them happy.”

Darren Lewis, executive chef, dining services for Quest Food Management Services at University of Indianapolis, said he employs skilled workers to run food stations, and those are harder to find than entry-level workers.

To help ease this problem, he said he’s forced to simplify some of his menu options.

But if it comes down to it, Lewis said he’ll man the stations himself to keep business going.

Sachia Tinsley, chef/owner of Peyrassol Café at Southport, Renton, WA, said her restaurant has been luckier than others because the majority of her workers are over 40 and preferred to work rather than take unemployment stimulus payments.

When her restaurant wasn’t able to have in-person dining, these workers stayed busy with take-out food.

Still, she said, the restaurant always seems to be about two people short.

Tinsley said she’s had no luck recruiting workers from traditional websites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, or Craigslist.

“We think they’ll come back when the stimulus runs out,” she said.

The United Fresh Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards program honors nine of the country’s most innovative chefs and foodservice professionals representing a variety of culinary styles and backgrounds.

This year’s winners will be honored at the PMA BB #:153708 Foodservice Conference & Expo, July 21-22 in Monterey, CA.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services