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‘At this point we don’t know what to do’: Restaurant struggles to find workers

mad mac help wanted .jpg
Posted at 6:43 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 09:51:34-04

BOISE, Idaho — Local small business owners are grappling with the current labor shortage. It's causing them to adjust their store hours or closed on certain days during the week.

Rhi Hoisington opened Mad Mac, a macaroni and cheese restaurant, a little more than three years ago at the Boise Spectrum Center.

“I owned Mad Mac for five years and we started out with the food truck,” Hoisington said.

Like many small business owners, Hoisington is trying to move forward after facing struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic but the current situation doesn’t look bright.

“It’s frustrating right now for small businesses because we have been struggling trying to hire people. We struggle just to survive through COVID. We got through COVID thinking things will be great but now we can’t hire people,” Hoisington said.

The lack of employees is forcing Hoisington to close the business on certain days during the week for the time being.

“We are going to be doing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and we are just going to focus more on our (food) truck. We are going to have our truck out more and we’re fortunate to have that. As far as the restaurant we’re just at limited hours,” Hoisington said.

Hoisington said she was expecting to interview 10 applicants, but none of them showed up for the interview.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which releases a report every once a month, in April found 44% of small business owners had difficulty finding employees and that April was the third month consecutively with a record high reading of unfilled open positions.

The NFIB of Idaho director Suzanne Budge said in a statement, she wasn’t surprised to see those record numbers.

"Finding qualified employees is a common lament I hear from our Idaho members. The reasons for the difficulty vary from that extra $300 the federal government gives on top of state unemployment benefits, which makes staying home more attractive than going to work, to fear of catching the virus. When you have some radio shows offering small-business owners free airtime to describe the jobs they have available, that pretty much encapsulates the problem. “Businesses are responding by reducing hours, moving to labor-saving devices that don’t require a human or shutting down completely. Even though Idaho has the sixth lowest unemployment rate, there are still plenty of good-paying jobs available. We’re not alone, this is a national problem. Earlier this week Montana’s governor announced initiatives to prod people off of their couches and back into work.”

Idaho's congressional leaders are working on legislation to attract more people to get back to work.

Last month, senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch introduced the 'Back To Work Bonus Act'. The proposed bill would provide a one-time payment to unemployed workers who secure a job.

Hoisington has been able to keep afloat with operating the food truck and hopes to be full staff once more.

“Basically the government is paying people more than a small business can afford to pay them. For us it’s frustrating and it’s hard to compete with that because we just don’t have that money coming in to pay that amount of money. A lot of us are paying well above the state minimum wage but it’s still not bringing the people in and at this point we don’t know what to do," she said.

LOCAL BUSINESSES ADJUST STORE HOURS OR CLOSED ON CERTAIN DAYS

Some local businesses have gone to social media letting the community know because of unfilled open positions they are making changes to their hours of operation.

In mid-April Moon’s Kitchen Cafe in Boise posted on Facebook, it would be closing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Zomzows Lawn, Garden, Pet, Wildbird, and Pond Store also posted on social media that it will be reducing its weekday hours starting on May 3.