Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, several businesses in Sebastian can’t find workers. Now that people are vaccinated and so many are moving to Sebastian, people are ready to dine out.
Help wanted signs are everywhere in Sebastian, but those businesses tell Sebastian Daily no one is applying. Some people are still collecting unemployment and decided not to go back to work. Some business owners have found themselves working the frontline or paying others overtime.
Yesterday, the Tiki Bar & Grill announced the closure of their kitchen on Tuesdays, with the exception of a select few appetizers, as they are struggling to find kitchen staff.
“This is a product of stimulus checks and overextended unemployment. It is not a matter of what is offered; our workforce has been depleted. This is a universal problem all over the country with food establishments,” Chris Pinson, one of the owners of the Tiki Bar & Grill, said in a statement.
The problem is widespread across Florida, and some restaurants in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami have gone as far as having robots to greet customers. We kid you not.
Mr. Q’s Crab House in South Florida uses four-foot-tall robots on wheels to escort patrons to their tables. Once the customer orders from a human server, a second robot runs the food to their table.
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The owner, Joy Wang, invested $30,000 in the three robots for Mr. Q’s. She struggled for several weeks to hire front-of-house workers but said her former employees “would rather sit at home and collect unemployment.”
But in Sebastian, that would not be as easy since most waterfront restaurants are outdoors. We’re all about hospitality, but local businesses will be forced to find alternatives if things don’t change.
Some restaurants in other states use touchpad dining for ordering, and then the customer has to pick up the food from the kitchen when paged. Disney uses Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering, allowing people to use their mobile phones to order food and pick it up when ready.
In April 2020, the unemployment rate in Indian River County skyrocketed to 14.30% and remained high until Florida reopened last summer. The rate dropped to 3.60% by December 2020 and is now at 5.20%. Brevard County’s unemployment rate is 4.50%.
Will things ever be back to normal? We can only guess that within a year, and as long as there’s no option for people to stay home in a market full of jobs.