Local chefs launch website aimed at mitigating staffing shortages in the restaurant industry

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Two local chefs are working to help the staffing shortages happening right now in the restaurant industry.

They’ve launched a website and app called ‘Sidegig’ that was created to bring together experienced food and beverage industry workers with business owners and managers.

It’s simple: you create a profile with your skills and availabilities and then the app matches your criteria with employers in need.

Sidegig does not operate as a staffing agency, but more as a connection platform.

“We connect independent contractors, people that are willing to work on their time off,” CEO and Founder of Sidegig, Ben Ellsworth said. “Fill gaps in their schedule.”

Ellsworth said he was down a dishwasher one shift and the idea came to mind when he was notified on his phone that someone booked his Air BnB.

“And that was kind’ve like the lightbulb moment where I was like, I use my phone to get a ride. I use my phone when I travel to get a room,” Ellsworth said. “Why couldn’t I fill a shift that easy?”

That’s when Ellsworth consulted with other chefs around the Charleston area and received plenty of positive feedback, as he said staffing has always been an issue.

“I mean back in the day, Rue De Jean when I worked there, it’s a popular spot. We were turning away applicants,” Ellsworth said. “You had to wait for someone to quit to get a job and that’s just not the case anymore.”

Ellsworth said as a chef who’s been in the business, to be busy in a restaurant without a dishwasher or the help needed can be catastrophic.

“It started out as a staffing problem. Then it became a staffing crisis. I don’t know what to even call it now. It’s an unprecedented problem,” Ellsworth said. “I don’t see it getting much better after COVID-19. Twenty-eight thousand people were laid off.”

Ellsworth said the advantages of Sidegig include shorter shifts, slightly higher pay because this is an on-demand situation, and payment through the app so you don’t have to wait for a two-week payroll.

To test out operations, Sidegig paired with Duval Catering, Salthouse Catering, and Halls Restaurant group in the fall of 2019. The website completed 36 ‘gigs’ in November, and nearly tripled results in December by signing with three additional businesses and completing a total of 86 gigs

Ellsworth said at one job he was working at through the website, another cook shared that he was able to pick up four shifts through Sidegig the week prior and pay rent.

Now he’s working to expand the platform to those outside of the industry to teachers or firefighters.

“A lot of teachers use their weekend, they use the hospitality industry to give them the extra money that they need to make ends meet,” said Ellsworth.

Right now, the goal is to build up the mobile version with a planned date between August 15th and September 15th.

As of last week, Ellsworth said Sidegig posted 32 open positions and filled 19 of them in 20 minutes.

To create your profile, click here.

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