Lowcountry restaurants face staffing shortages amid Cinco De Mayo celebrations

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Cinco De Mayo celebrations are underway across the Lowcountry but some restaurant owners say they’re facing some unexpected challenges keeping enough workers on staff to meet demand.

Between restaurants and people, many are taking advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the day in person this year after a year off because of COVID-19. But it hasn’t been easy for business owners.

“The street is just alive today, people are just coming out all day long,” says Roy Neal who owns El Jefe located on King Street in Downtown Charleston. “They’re wanting to celebrate, they’re wanting to enjoy themselves.”

The businesses are happy customers are back filling seats and doors are open but not all challenges for their owners have gone away.

“Restaurant and employee wise, everybody is getting burnt out,” says Megan Taylor, a Bar Manager at Taco Boy. “And burnt out people don’t work well and they’re not happy.”

“Staffing is tough, I know every restaurant is hiring,” says Neal.

Staffing shortages are being experienced at restaurants across the industry. For many restaurants, the shortage is creating longer waits and slower service for customers.

“During the summer, during this time we usually have 12 (workers) on for Cinco De Mayo,” says Taylor. “We can only staff about six or eight in the morning now and then usually those who work in the morning will work a double at night.”

Neal says business is booming for his restaurant and several others along King Street but says he’s struggling to find people to fill open jobs.

“But in business you just do what you can do, you know they dealt us a pretty tough card with the pandemic,” says Neal. “Now they’re dealing a tough card with employment issues but owners aren’t going to just sit there and close the doors.”

For Neal, eager to get his restaurant fully staffed, he’s hopeful help could soon be on the way.

“If there is anyone sitting out there who wants to come down, come down and see us at El Jefe or any of the restaurants on King Street,” says Neal. “Come down and support them.”

Restaurants say it’s likely lines could be longer with the staffing shortages, they are asking customers to be patient in the meantime.

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