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Bay county restaurants struggle to hire workers

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. — The lines are usually out the door during lunch rush for re-opened businesses like Cahall’s Deli, and people are excited to be back at their favorite restaurants, but there’s a major problem. 

Since Hurricane Michael, business owners have been struggling to find employees to work for them.

“It took eight months to remodel,” said Susan Craven, owner of Smitty’s Barbecue. “I am now tasked with trying to find a kitchen staff.”

She says the hiring issue has affected her restaurant in a big way.

“I’m not able to open full hours,” she said. “I’m not able to put my full menu out yet.”

She’s not alone. Christ Cordon owns Cahall’s Deli, and he says lunch rush has turned into a nightmare.

“Some people can’t wait thirty minutes to get their food,” said Cordon. “They’re gonna get upset and go somewhere else because we can’t get them done in time.”

When asked why they were having this problem, there was one recurring answer.

“I don’t think there’s enough housing here,” said Cordon. Craven agreed. 

“A lot of the apartments [the workers] had were destroyed and they moved to other towns,” said Craven.

Housing prices have soared since the storm, as we previously reported on how rent gouging has caused many to move out of town. The one’s that stay are “poached” by restaurant owners who need workers.

“We’re all fighting to try and get them to restaurants,” said Craven.

This has caused the pay scales to increase incrementally, driving prices up for store owners. They say that there doesn’t seem to be a short-term solution. 

“Unfortunately it’s the new normal,” said Cordon. 

In the meantime, it’s business as usual.

“You don’t have a choice, you have to keep moving forward,” said Cordon. “You do it the best you can.”

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