Waiter Wars: Server shortage has Houston restaurants scrambling for good help as pros jump around
“With new restaurants sprouting up everywhere it's making it very laborious to find trained front-of-house staff, we started investing much more of our resources into training,” says Brennan’s of Houston’s general manager Carl Walker. “For example, we equip management with the tools to fast-track the growth needed to meet our service demands.”
"Some people think this is a job for unskilled labor but that’s not true."
And lots of other restaurants are feeling the pinch.
El Real Tex-Mex Cafe’s Frank Flaig, who bears the impressive title of senior dining room manager —which basically means he does everything, admits it’s getting harder to hire.
“We’re looking!” he exclaims. “Yes, it’s getting harder with all the new places opening. Some people think this is a job for unskilled labor but that’s not true. A good restaurant requires front-of-house staff with a very definite set of skills: they have to be people-friendly and be able to cope with stress. You really have to find the right fit for your team. Everyone has to get along and work well together and hopefully inspire the other staff to be better.”
Houston’s waiter culture is highly professional. Sure, fast food joints and some national chains hire college kids and out-of-work actors, but for the longtime beloved local like Johnny Carrabba’s eateries, Tony’s and even Molina’s Cantinas, the waitstaff make good money and tend to support their families and spend years, if not decades, with their employers.
“But with so many new restaurants opening and closing, if you’ve only been with a restaurant a short time, and a new place that looks better and looks like it will last more than a few months opens, you’ll make the jump.”
"But with so many new restaurants opening and closing, if you’ve only been with a restaurant a short time, and a new place that looks better and looks like it will last more than a few months opens, you’ll make the jump,” says one experienced waiter at a major establishment.
Lori Farris, co-owner with her chef/husband Efisio of Arcodoro, a Sardinian restaurant in the Galleria area also echoes the current plight of finding good front-of-house staff.
“It is very hard to find quality personnel that are hospitality professionals,” she says. “There are a lot of new restaurants opening in the Post Oak/Galleria area that are making the new hire market very tough. Fortunately, we have a core group of waitstaff that have been with us a long time. In the past we have had a steady flow of people seeking employment but this stream has really dried up.”
So far eaters haven’t been complaining about lack of service at their favorite spots but clearly restaurants are upping their game when it comes to hiring and retaining workers.
Google “waiter jobs Houston” and get more than 400,000 sites. At shiftgig.com there are 16 pages of restaurant server openings. And with more and more restaurants on the boards, Houston could soon become a servers’ paradise when it comes to picking and choosing jobs.