Spokane businesses struggle to hire people, making reopening at full capacity difficult

SPOKANE, Wash. — Businesses are desperate to hire people. A few have started giving out hiring bonuses just to get people to apply. However, not all of them can offer the extra cash.

On top of hiring bonuses, many businesses are also offering more than minimum wage. It seems to be working for restaurants, but not fast enough as all COVID restrictions have been lifted, meaning restaurants can open at fully capacity.

“Of course we are a little bit short staffed so being in that position we have some people working some really long hours,” said Jon Jingling, general manager at Outlaw BBQ.

Jingling said their Northwest location has been short staffed for a few months. On a normal Friday night, they have at least seven servers. That has been nearly cut in half. However, they are running at full capacity.

They are hurting for workers, specifically at their new location in Spokane Valley. The restaurant can only open during dinner because they do not have the staffing to open for lunch.

Unlike some other businesses, Outlaw BBQ is not offering new hire incentives. The owner, Misty Straley, said it is a tricky situation.

“You can’t give somebody $500 for being here and not give somebody else $500 that’s already been here and committed and put forth the time and effort,” Jingling said.

Some restaurants cannot run at full capacity because of staffing. However, they are offering bonuses.

“We’re looking for as many people as we can find,” said Marshall Powell, general manager at Two Seven Public House. “We’ll find a place to put them no matter what.”

The restaurant is looking for two servers and two cooks. Cooks are being offered $15 an hour with no experience, which is above minimum wage in Washington. To sweeten the deal, Powell said they are offering incentives for both new employees and current ones that refer them.

If a new, referred employee makes it past six weeks they both get $300. If the new employee makes it past six months, they both get another $600. Powell said he has seen an influx in resumes.

“I think the incentive has helped and I think the unemployment, having to apply for jobs has helped, as well,” Powell said.

Starting on July 5, people on unemployment have to actively look for a job and provide documents for three job searches in order to stay eligible for benefits.

This transition to full capacity will take some time for everyone. Businesses want people to not only apply; they want people to be understanding.

“When you go out thinking it’s 100% occupancy, be patient with everyone,” Powell said. “It’s not only that we’re short staffed, but we’re also short on product.”

“We’re people too and we’re just trying to make people smile and there’s going to be mistakes and people are human and so just stay happy,” Jingling said.

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