Chicago restaurants hope to attract unemployed workers with high pay

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CHICAGO (WGN) – As Chicago eateries continue to reopen, high end restaurants held a job fair Monday amid their struggles with a shortage of qualified workers.

The restaurant industry has dealt with furloughs, layoffs and ex-workers who say they make more money collecting unemployment. Monday’s job fair aimed to feature restaurants promising to pay minimum wage in the hope of attracting workers with high pay.

Jimmy Bradley, an unemployed cook, was one of many to show up at Monday’s job fair. Beginning at 11 a.m., the event was held at the Parkway Ballroom in Chicago.

“It’s been tough,” Bradley told WGN. “The pandemic has really weighed on me. They say the restaurants are having a tough time finding people, but they are just not trying hard enough.”

Terri Bush, owner of Windy City Ribs & Whiskey in the South Loop, said she understands why employees want and need more money to survive. It’s why she says she is offering $15 an hour. Bush adds that she’s also helping her employees with wealth strategies. Despite this, she says she is still having a tough time recruiting candidates.  

“The employment process has been the most difficult part of opening back up,” Bush said. “What we have been doing is digging through our personal network and connecting with High Roads Kitchen.” 

Sixty Chicago area restaurants, calling themselves High Roads Restaurants, have partnered with the national nonprofit One Fair Wage to advocate for restaurant workers. While Monday’s job fair turnout was low, organizers remain optimistic and happy with the quality of people who came out. 

“I think it says it a scary time,” said Mikey Knab, with RAISE: High Road Restaurants. “It’s not an easy time to decide to go back to work in a restaurant just yet.”

Knab says the industry as a whole needs to offer more incentives to unemployed workers.

“If our industry doesn’t start to value our workforce, we are not going to be able to attract and retain good talent,” he said. “That will be worst for our industry than the pandemic at large.”

Anyone interested in a job opportunity with High Roads Restaurant may click here.

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