Restaurant owners wonder if end of federal unemployment will boost staffing levels

BOSTON — Federal pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire next weekend, and some business owners are wondering if that will result in more people returning to work.

The current staffing shortages have been leading to daily challenges and losses for many sectors, including the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Some restaurants across the Boston area are still not operating at full capacity due to limited staffing.

Rachelle Cando, owner of Picco in the South End, hasn’t had any luck filling more than half of her restaurant’s positions with no new applications for months.

She’s hopeful that will change.

“We’re excited to get people back in here,” Cando told Boston 25 News. “It’s been very difficult. We want to open at full capacity but we can’t. We can’t open the bar. We can’t open the full patio.”

Cando has been working long hours aside her staff to keep things up in running as smoothly as possible.

“It’s pretty frustrating. People don’t understand, why can’t I sit here? We just don’t have anyone working,” explained Cando. “I got to stay hopeful.”

The expiration of federal unemployment benefits just before Labor Day will mark the largest cutoff in U.S. history.

In all, 7.5 million Americans will be left without benefits, and millions more will receive smaller weekly unemployment checks.

More than 300,000 people in Massachusetts will be impacted.

“More applicants are coming on board. You’re starting to see signs of it for sure,” said Jack Bardy, owner The Beehive and Cosmica restaurants in the South End.

Bardy expects more applications will be coming in the weeks ahead.

“There’s not going to be endless positions available. If people are waiting on the sidelines, they should get in now,” said Bardy.

Bardy and Cando don’t believe federal unemployment benefits are the sole reason for people not returning to work.

They both told Boston 25 News that the pandemic has prompted some unemployed workers to reconsider returning to work in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Download the free Boston 25 News app for up-to-the-minute push alerts

>> Complete Covid-19 vaccine coverage


- Complete local and national coronavirus coverage here

- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter | Watch Boston 25 NOW

- Download our free apps for your phone and smart TV