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AP Photo/Lisa Rathke

A promising March jobs report showed that many of the 916,000 hired in the month were in the leisure and hospitality sector, thanks to the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations and many states finally reopening. But those in the restaurant industry are now up against another challenge. How can they compete with government benefits?


For one Chicago area restaurant, it’s proving to be difficult.

Steve Hartenstein says opening a new restaurant as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on is “exciting, scary and brutal.”

He is the Managing Partner of Lucca Osteria and Bar, which is aiming to welcome customers in Oakbrook in May. A huge part of that preparation is hiring. Still, with so many laid off during the worst of the pandemic, applications for the 100 jobs he’s filing are only trickling in.

“Now that so many people are getting vaccinated and feeling more safe, we thought, fantastic, but it’s not that way at all,” he said. (CBS Chicago)

Some have decided to leave the industry altogether, but Hartenstein told CBS Chicago he believes there’s more to it than that. 

“The unemployment checks and the stimulus checks are keeping people at home,” he said. 

Others pointed to ongoing concerns over Covid-19, however.

With the state’s dining capacity at 25% and Chicago’s at 50%, staying healthy also remains a major concern. 

“Part of it is the vaccine for sure,” said Dr. Teolfio Reyes is with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which represents restaurant staff in Chicago and nationwide. “I think that will make a lot of people much more comfortable to go to work that are reticent. You’re coming into work, you’re trying to serve people food, and on top of that you’re having to police their behavior with the mask wearing, and then you’re depending on them for tips afterward. So it’s really a challenging, an uncomfortable situation.” (CBS Chicago)


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