Phoenix Restaurateurs Struggle to Find Good Staff; What's Up with That?

Categories: Saria

"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."

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11 comments
Joe Hobson
Joe Hobson

From a cooks perspective...ppl are often stretched too thin and a lack of focus on culinary expertise leaves young aspiring chefs feeling lost in the industry with no solid direction. I can name 10 awesome cooks waiting to work with an awesome chef and gain direction and focus in the industry...but the jobs don't seam to be there...staging is limited..and if you find an awesome place then you have to fight you way up a ladder hoping to be noticed...cooks spend more time in the kitchen than with our fams...go home and Google everything from d. Chang and dufrane, kevin binkley to Escoffier and T.K., modernist to CIA, and show up at work and look for the that one person on the same page....and the chefs are always too busy...lol...plus the pay is shit...emphasize on building chefs not cooks for your menu...basic interaction

roggie67
roggie67

How can I say it?  Willing to jump into the dishroom.   Honestly, nice break from the line now and again.  Deliveries?  Part of the job, and I do like to see what is coming in.  Respect from employers?  Barely.  Best people were at a little Mom and Pop place.  Appetito's.

RIck
RIck

Start paying people real middle class wages and you'll have no problem. If you can't afford to do that, you don't deserve to have good dedicated staff.

midevilforever
midevilforever

It's because the good wait staff are tired of getting fucked by the shitty ass owners in this state. Pay better or offer to cover slow nights and maybe good waiters will stick around.

HRapocalypse
HRapocalypse

Don't get me started. I've been hiring restaurant staff for over twenty years. Today's general applicant is barely bi-pedal in comparison to his/her counterparts of even a decade or so ago. Semi-literate, completely entitled emotionally, and tethered almost umbilically to their cell phones, they're reduced to an almost infantile dependence on its constant feed, and can't seem to work for more than a few minutes at a stretch before feeling the need to sneak off and suckle from their smart phone screens.

rlgans1
rlgans1

The other part of the equation is that restaurants won't hire older chefs. If you are beyond 50, they aren't interested. They would rather hire the young, even though the older people have the work ethic that has not been found in the younger generation.

joe.distort
joe.distort

my wife is a chef with great experience who busts her ass and every industry job tries to pay her like $11/Hr. Maybe that has something to do with it

roggie67
roggie67

@HRapocalypse Since I have been working in the industry for almost thirty years, I have a hard time with the entire situation.  Constantly training, and the cell phones are terrible.  I am so tired of not only my coworkers, but also the management drop everything to take a call.  Especially, when it is always said no phones while working.

lemmster
lemmster

@HRapocalypse  This is the most insightful, accurate and well-stated bit of prose I have read in a very long time that speaks volumes about the pathetic and rapid decline our society as a whole has suffered in innumerable ways since the advent of cell phones. And the most obvious results of this degradation can be found in exactly the demographic you pointed out. Well done HRapocalypse! Way to tell it exactly like it is.

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