A Nantucket restaurant is considering hiring 8th graders because of the lack of available workers amid the US labor shortage

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A Nantucket restaurant is considering hiring 8th graders because of the lack of available workers amid the US labor shortage
The restaurant sector has been hit hard by the labor shortage.Noam Galai/Getty Images
  • Straight Wharf Restaurant is considering hiring eighth graders, as the labor shortage continues.
  • The restaurant's chef told Fox Business that its location on Nantucket made commuting impossible.
  • He said the lack of workers could threaten its plans to reopen on a seven-day schedule.

A restaurant in Nantucket says it's struggling so much to find workers that it's interviewing eighth graders.

Gabriel Frasca, a chef at the Massachusetts island's Straight Wharf Restaurant, told Fox Business that the restaurant was particularly hard hit by the labor shortage, because commuting was unviable.

The island has a population of less than 12,000.

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Read more: An economic theory called 'reallocation friction' may explain why employers are having a hard time finding workers - and why a full recovery could be years away

"We're at the point in the hiring process where not only are we considering eighth graders, but we're interviewing them," Frasca said. "That's new … for me but hey, he's got housing."

Industries from education and healthcare to hospitality and ride-hailing apps are scrambling to attract new hires as the US faces what the US Chamber of Commerce called a "national economic emergency." Full-service restaurants have around 14% fewer workers than they did before the pandemic.

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Younger people could stand to gain from this, with the number of teens in work at the highest rate since 2008.

Frasca told Fox that Straight Wharf Restaurant had been hit by other worker shortages in recent years but that the current problem was "particularly acute."

"There are no applicants out there," Frasca said. "Where we might, in the past, get 20 applicants a day, we're seeing one or two and usually without applicable experience."

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Frasca said that the upscale restaurant needs experienced staff, and that it's better to focus on the quality of new hires rather than the quantity.

"It's always better to be down a man than we are putting someone in the position where they're going to fail," he said. "That being said, we are at the point where it is going to affect our business and it is impacting our operations."

He said the restaurant planned to return to a seven-day schedule in a few weeks - but that this might not happen if it can't find enough workers.

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"Right now when we need to fill 11, 12, 13 positions, we're pretty far away from that."

Other companies have also said the labor shortage forced them to limit production, slash operating hours, and raise prices.

Restaurant owners fear they won't be able to pay rent and around two-thirds of small restaurants say they can't find enough staff.

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The chair of the NYC Economic Development Corporation said that a lot of restaurant staff who were laid off during the pandemic got jobs in other industries "that were actually doing quite well during COVID," and may not return to hospitality. Meanwhile, Insider's Áine Cain reported that workers were "rage-quitting" their jobs over long hours, low pay, and bad company cultures.

Restaurants have been offering lucrative perks to lure in new hires. A McDonald's in Illinois said it would give iPhones to new hires, while another in Florida said it would offer $50 to anyone who came in for an interview.

The Federal Reserve said the staffing squeeze could last months but Bank of America expects the job market to recover by early 2022.

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