Employee shortage leaves local restaurant struggling to stay open

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Across the country, employers are looking to hire people in all positions.

One local store had such a hard time, they closed for a short time just to focus on hiring.

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“We’ve never had this degree of short-staffness,” Johnathan Howard said.

Johnathan Howard is the General Manager of McAlister’s Deli in Starkville. He said the lack of employees comes from a variety of circumstances.

“It all goes back to 2020, back when the lay-offs happened with COVID. We’ve had a hard time hiring since. But we’ve used a lot of the high school and college kids to kind of get through the summer,” Howard said. “And now that’s schools starting to come back and a lot of our staff has went back to school or moved off because they’ve graduated in the fall, so, we’re having a lot of trouble trying to get staff in here and hired.”

Howard said the shortage has taken a toll on the store. After closing their doors for 3 days to just get hiring and training done, the staff is hopeful for change.

“I’ve hired 6 over those 3 days which is more than we are, we’ve gotten in the past 6 months. We would set interviews like 10 to 15 a day and get maybe one show up for the interview. We’re just not getting a lot of return when we do set up the interviews,” Howard added.

McAlister’s Deli has been offering higher salaries and bonuses just to get people in the door.

Before the pandemic, the store would have around 30 employees. Right now, they have 13.

Madison Funk has worked at McAlister’s for over a year. She said it’s hard running the restaurant with less than half needed.

“I’m really tired. I don’t see my fiance or my family that much. But I do have a great support system and staff here so it’s not too terrible, it’s just really tiring. It’s kind of just becoming the new normal. I’m ready to expect the unexpected at this point,” Funk said.

Although some of the employees have been putting in 40 to 50 hours a week due to the staffing shortage, McAlister’s employees said that the staff’s flexibility makes the job that much easier during the pandemic.

“We have a lot of people that are like, ‘I’ll work that 50 hours, I’ll work that 55 hours’, just to get by so that we can continue to run the store and keep it going,” Howard said.

If you are interested in working for the store, applications are online and available at hiring locations.

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