Local restaurants struggle to hire, pandemic unemployment benefits to blame?

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LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — We’ve seen many restaurants in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania struggle during the pandemic. But not all of those struggles have been tied to mitigation efforts. Some are the result of restaurants being unable to recruit enough employees to do the job.

If it looks a little busy at Napoli’s Pizza, you’re not wrong. The staff is stretched thin. They could use more help, but this has been a problem with the restaurant industry all throughout the pandemic.

There’s plenty of hustle and bustle on the menu at Napoli’s Pizza. Holding down the business this day are owners Antonio and Tiffany Costagliola and their daughters.

It’s been all hands on deck this pandemic to help overcome staff shortages. But a monkey wrench is about to be thrown into that winning formula.

“Now with back to school and everything… So we kind of end up, just me and my wife again, and try to recruit a couple, find some people to work,” explained Antoni Costagliola.

Jobs available include kitchen staff to delivery drivers.

“It would be pretty helpful to help us get out on time and not run around so much. It would be a pretty nice help,” said Maia Costagliola.

But filling those jobs hasn’t been easy.

“We never really had any help, like, trying to find people is very hard, so we always help them out,” explained Nadia Costagliola.

Some people who otherwise would look for paid work at a restaurant haven’t been looking this year, but instead they’ve been collecting pandemic unemployment benefits.

“All the small mom and pops and other businesses in the area we need the help right now,” stated Dave Krappa.

Krappa’s business, The Avenue Restaurant and Catering, is thriving despite needing to double the 25 member staff. He starts his day in the kitchen at 4:30 in the morning, a workday he didn’t expect to end until 11 or later at night.

“I mean we’re all down on one knee, you know, praying every morning afraid of what we’re going to be against because we’re so short-staffed,” explained Krappa.

Something that may reverse this employment trend is that the days are numbered for pandemic unemployment benefits.

“Maybe now, hopefully, everything will go back to normal. Like you know, people will go back to work and the economy will go back to the way it was,” said Antonio Costagliola.

With pandemic unemployment benefits set to expire on September 6, places like Napoli’s Pizza can only hope that that will be a turning point in this pandemic for them to beef up their staff.

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