Chattanooga service industry businesses are experiencing a labor shortage

Easy Bistro | Photo by Our Ampersand Photography

The service industry is experiencing a labor shortage, and Chattanooga hasn’t remained untouched.

Some industry locals said it’s all people are talking about + it’s an emergency situation. 

Now that outdoor dining season is here, vaccination rates are increasing, and more people feel safe re-entering the public sphere, restaurants are in desperate need of employees, but very few are stepping up to the plate. (Pun not intended. 😅)

On top of that, there is also a food shortage because manufacturers are also short-staffed and cannot keep up with the demand that comes with states quickly reopening. One recent example is ketchup.

Local insight 

Lupi’s Pizza Owner Dorris Shober + Main Street Meats and Easy Bistro Owner Erik Niel both called the shortage a “crisis.” Some restaurants can’t open or are cutting hours because they don’t have the staff.

  • Both businesses have been hiring for months at all locations but getting almost no response.
  • Potential reasons for the shortage include:
    • Some service workers got out of the industry + moved on to other jobs.
    • Some may be wary of working in a job that encounters so many people.
    • Last but not least, wages.
  • Some people may be making as much through current unemployment benefits as they would at a restaurant job, so there’s a disincentive to come back, Niel said, although he expects that to ease in a few months.
  • Niel said he expects continued pressure on wages. He starts people at $12.50 now, and he thinks that will eventually increase. Shober also said her wages are competitive for the industry.
  • The shortage may also affect customer experiences, which restaurant owners are working to overcome, but they are experiencing a new influx of customers + taking care of them with fewer employees.
  • But Niel also said there’s never been a better time to get into a service or skilled trade job because “opportunity abounds.” Managers are eager to train anyone with the willingness + aptitude, he said.
  • You can find more info about jobs at Lupi’s online, and anyone interested in working at Main Street Meats or Easy Bistro can call the respective restaurants and talk to a manager.

State insight

  • About 7,600 new unemployment claims were filed in Tennessee last week.
  • The state unemployment rate is 5.1 percent.
  • There are more than 230,000 open jobs on