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Restaurants Promising $20 an Hour to Lure Workers

What'll you have? Restaurants and bars are ready to welcome the masses back, but first they have to find staff.
What'll you have? Restaurants and bars are ready to welcome the masses back, but first they have to find staff. Kelsey Shoemaker
The Standard Pour is a charming uptown staple known for tasty happy hour specials and good bites. Like many other restaurants and bars across the city, they sloughed through 2020, bruised but not beaten.

With vaccine shots in arms and hospitalization rates low, things are thankfully picking up. Supposedly, anyway. Many restaurants looking to open back to 100% capacity, just like old times, are struggling to recruit a full staff. A job market that pre-pandemic was marked by low pay and reliance on tips is being rattled.

Sean Taylor at The Standard Pour has posted job openings, particularly for bussers, on social media and CraigsList, with little to no response. Taylor said most applicants didn’t have any related experience, and of those who scheduled interviews, the majority never actually showed up.

Eventually, they promoted that bussers earn $20 an hour.

Taylor says bussers are guaranteed $8 per hour from the house, “and their tip outs have averaged a minimum of $12 to 14 per hour, so really they’re making between $20 and $22 per hour. There hasn’t been a week since we reopened when they’ve made less than $20 [an hour]. And we still can’t even find applicants for the position!”

A few days later, after the post had a little more time to circulate on social media, they got two good prospects who were scheduled for an interview and an audition shift.

The Pineapple Grill in Hurst is another restaurant that struggled to staff up. They were so desperate for a qualified cook, they offered a $300 signing bonus.

“We are actually fully staffed now,” the owner says about a week after the post. “It [the $300 bonus they paid out] takes away from our profit, but unfortunately with unemployment ... I had two people tell me they make more off unemployment."

This past weekend Jimmy John's in Austin near the University of Texas campus had a large sign on the front of their restaurant that they were hiring for $20 an hour. After an online search, a downtown Dallas location is similarly has a job post for delivery drivers earning $15 to $25 per hour, plus cash tips, mileage and a $100 signing bonus after 30 days. Plus, “No fryers, no griddles or playgrounds to clean.”
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.