Phoenix Restaurateurs Struggle to Find Good Staff; What's Up with That?
"When I went through school a big part of your professionalism was working your way up through the ranks," Osio says. "It was more about pulling yourself through the ranks of the restaurant. It showed your character."
"It's more and more difficult to find those people," he says. "Culinary schools have boosted self confidence in a negative way."
Osio says he thinks it's a generational problem. One that's only been exacerbated by the Food Network and other media that have glamorized the food and beverage industry. He also thinks the problem is particularly bad here, in a town where the food scene is generally seen as not fully developed.
But chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen has her own idea of what's caused staffing shortages.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat it: SB 1070 really hurt Arizona," she says. "I don't know if other states are having the problem, but here in Arizona, the workforce is becoming very scarce."
Esparza says she's had more problems at Barrio Queen, which opened in 2012, than at Barrio Cafe, which opened over a decade ago. She says she watched staff leave her restaurants and others in the wake of the 2010 immigration law, though the biggest effects were on the back of the house.
The sheer number of restaurants in town these days may also be contributing to the issue, says Citizen Public House chef and owner Bernie Kantak.
"We think that everybody works for Sam Fox at this point," Kantak laughs, though he acknowledges he's been "very fortunate" with the staff at both Citizen and The Gladly.
Kantak, who worked at Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale for 11 years, says he's not discouraged by the fact that chefs and cooks want to move from restaurant to restaurant. In fact, he says he's "a little jealous" he didn't do so himself.
No matter when the cause, the inability of restaurant owners and chefs to find good support staff is one that should worry anyone who enjoys the experience of dining out. As Esparza puts it, we're moving to a mindset where a more casual restaurant or lower priced food comes with an expectation of lower quality service. And that just shouldn't -- or at least, wasn't always -- the case.
"It become that the price point your paying is the quality of server you're going to get," Esparza says. "It's unfortunate."