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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

How a labor shortage is costing Mid-South companies business

Desperate for employees, some companies are offering sign-on bonuses or getting into bidding wars for service employees.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — By now, you have probably heard about labor shortages across the country, and specifically finding employees to work in the hospitality industry. 

One Memphis restaurant owner said it's so bad, she has had to turn down catering work because she doesn't have the employees to work it.

Business owners said the labor shortage is just the latest chapter for many business who've survived the pandemic but now have different struggles. 

"We have had a heck of a time in the past weeks and months to get anyone in the door to even fill out an application," Randi Belisomo.

Belisomo runs Ronnie Grisanti's Italian Restaurant in East Memphis.

Having trouble finding employees to work in the family-owned long-running restaurant business is something new. 

"We've never been in this position in like 110 years. This is really unprecedented times," said Belisomo.

We've talked to Belisomo throughout the pandemic - from the restaurant shut down to its new COVID safety precautions, its slow reopening, and even the launch of a retail operation to help keep the doors open.

"We got by on the pandemic on a smaller staff because we were either take-out or half-capacity. And now we have that same staff with more business than even before the pandemic."

Belisomo believes the labor shortage is a combination things - including people staying home and collecting unemployment or finding jobs outside the service industry.

"For some, it's more than they were making with less responsibility. They don't have to pay gas money. They don't have to pay for a baby sitter. They don't have to send clothes to the cleaners. For some it's more income with less outcome and less responsibility," said Ricky Floyd, Senior Pastor of Pursuit of God Transformation Center.

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Event organizer Pastor Floyd said with Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits early, people need to find jobs now.

"It's an employees' market right now. We had a young lady who came here unemployed. She was a truck driver. She literally had two companies bidding for her, right, between bidding pay and signing bonus," said Floyd.

Belisomo said a labor shortage is just her latest chapter in this pandemic. The good news is, she said business is booming and that is a good problem to have.

"Fourteen months ago I was saying I don't know what we are going to do, but we are going to keep working every day and that is what we did. And we're glad to be in this position. It is better than being on the other end," said Belisomo.