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2-state restaurants hope hiring incentives bring in more applicants

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 9:59 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The latest unemployment rate is 5% in South Carolina. Reports from the week of May 30 show initial unemployment claims at 1,887 compared to 22,734 during the same week in 2020.

Still, many businesses in the service industry are having trouble finding workers.

Some businesses have stopped waiting for applications to come in and have begun offering incentives for people to apply and start working.

Incentives vary per employer, and with larger chains, some locations offer different incentives than others. Business Insider reports that some Taco Bell locations are offering drive-up interviews, while other businesses may offer signing bonuses or referral programs.

Research economist Joey Von Nessen says that customers are already seeing the effects of those incentive programs, aside from more staffing.

“It certainly can increase menu prices and we’re already seeing some increases in the price of food, and the service sector more generally is seeing a significant increase in its overall price level,” says Von Nessen.

Local business owners like Bobby Williams say that business has been booming the past few months, so he can afford to hold incentive programs without raising menu prices.

“Thank goodness, you know, though this has been horrible employment, but business has been fantastic. I mean, we are doing more business now than we have ever done,” Williams said.

Von Nessen says that the demand we’re seeing for the service industry is a great sign. The combination of more vaccinated people wanting to get out and be social again mixed with more businesses opening up and with tourist season, the demand will continue to spike.

“We’re probably looking at price increases throughout the summer as demand continues to rise. But we anticipate that should level off mid to late summer perhaps in the early fall,” he says. “As we begin to see some stabilization of demand.”

As for smaller businesses that may not be able to afford to incentivize, Von Nessen suggests being proactive with hiring, getting creative with use of technology and with use of current workers, and remembering to be flexible.

“So, there are a variety of ways that businesses can adapt to the labor shortage, beyond just hiring more workers,” says Von Nessen.

As demand spikes through tourist season, Von Nessen says that there is an end in sight for the service industry’s staffing and the general economy to get back to pre-pandemic levels.

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