Asheville restaurants struggle to fill positions

Asheville restaurant jobs continue opening up as tourism booms, but some managers struggle to fill those positions. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Asheville restaurant jobs continue opening up as tourism booms, but some managers struggle to fill those positions.

Doc Chey's Noodle House downtown will close Sept. 3 after more than 15 years, partly because of the difficulty of finding new employees.

The restaurant’s manager, Tyler Boeing, said there is a number of reasons for closing, but some of it comes down to the cost of living in Asheville.

Unemployment in Asheville remains low—around 3 percent. Unfortunately, for some restaurant managers, like Boeing, that does not help.

"We used to, when we put an ad on Craigslist, we'd get 30 or 40 applications, and then the last few times we've done that the applications have just stopped coming in," Boeing said.

Boeing said he has not been able to re-fill positions as some employees leave for other industries.

"One of the things I think has a lot to do with it is the affordability of Asheville and how much that's changed in the last several years; that a typical line cook that's maybe making $12, $13, $14 an hour has a hard time making it in Asheville," said Boeing.

"Doc Chey's is not the only place having this problem. I think one of the answers is to raise wages," Vicki Meath, executive director at Just Economics, said.

Her organization helps businesses create a good starting point for a living wage.

"We certify employers as 'living wage certified,' if they're paying $13 an hour or $11.50 with employer provided health insurance,” Meath said. "It's what it takes to get by with just barely enough just to meet those basic needs for a single person."

It's a good start, she said, but there are other burning issues facing these workers.

"When we're talking about restaurant workers, we're not only talking about their hourly wage, but the fact that the way their shifts run, they're not getting in enough hours," Meath said.

The mix of low wages with lack of affordable housing, Boeing predicted, could create a recipe for disaster for his industry and possibly the local economy.

"It could be a big issue going forward is that, you know, we're building hotels and new restaurants are opening and then you don't have anyone to staff them because of that," Boeing said.

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