Kansas City-area restaurants struggle to hire employees as business picks up

Kansas City-area restaurants struggle to hire employees as business picks up


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Restaurants in the Kansas City area are having a hard time hiring employees after being forced to close and down-size because of the pandemic.

Megan and Colby Garrelts own Rye Leawood and Rye Plaza. Megan Garrelts said the restaurant business is dealing with an unprecedented challenge to find workers.

“In the 18 years of owning restaurants in the Kansas City area this is by and large the hardest time we’ve ever had trying to find staff,” Garrelts said.

Between added to-go business, outdoor patio seats and people getting vaccinated, Garrelts said both locations are getting back to their regular rhythm for the first time since the pandemic started.

Garrelts is looking to fill positions in every type of department for her businesses. She regularly posts the openings online.

“From our front of the house service team, to our kitchen, we’re looking for a cooks, pastry cooks, dining room managers, servers, hosts, bussers, everybody,” Garrelts said.

Garrelts believes multiple factors contribute to the small applicant pool.

“I think some people took time off during COVID, re-evaluated what they wanted to do with their lives, spend time with family, some people have left the industry, some people are still on unemployment,” Garrelts said. “You know it’s really personal preference and where people want to be, and I think COVID just heightened some realities for people in their work and life balance.”

The problem is a commonality across the Kansas City area. At Buffalo State Pizza, owner Philippe Lechevin said it’s even starting to affect business hours.

“We end up in a situation where we might just close early or refuse online ordering because we cannot fulfill it,” Lechevin said.

Lechevin is asking customers for patience as employees, like Peyton West, do their best to keep up with fewer hands to help.

“It doesn’t seem busy, but that doesn’t mean we’re not busy in the kitchen and that can be difficult to understand if you’ve never worked in a restaurant,” West said.

Along with staffing shortages, Garrelts said restaurants are dealing with other pandemic-related challenges such as not having some regular food items due to production issues.

She hopes customers keep that in mind and know restaurants are doing their best.

“Go out, have fun, enjoy your friends and family at your table, but be really kind to your hospitality staff, they are working long hours with less help and they really want to be here,” Garrelts said.

Garrelts said Rye offers full health care benefits for managers as well as hourly staff who work 30 or more hours a week. The business also offers paid time off and paid vacation.

To apply to work at Rye, people can follow this link to the restaurant’s website.

To apply to work at Buffalo State Pizza, people can follow this link to the restaurant’s website.

The Rebound Kansas City is our effort is to help metro residents play a role in moving our community forward. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas to via email to [email protected] and we welcome you to join in the conversation on the Rebound KC Facebook Group.

Whether you’re Getting Back to Work after a layoff, need help Making Ends Meet during these trying times or need tips on Managing the Pressure we’re all feeling, The Rebound has resources to find help. We’ll also make sure local leaders are Doing What’s Right to get Kansas City back track after a three-month shutdown.

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