North Texas Daily

Continued labor shortage hits Denton both on and off campus as customers crowd businesses

Continued labor shortage hits Denton both on and off campus as customers crowd businesses

Continued labor shortage hits Denton both on and off campus as customers crowd businesses
September 11
10:00 2021

As the 2021 fall semester begins, employers on and off campus are trying to find new hires to fill gaps left from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restrictions on operating hours and shift team sizes, imposed by businesses to reduce customer and employee exposure to the virus, have been loosened gradually over the past few months. Employers across the nation are in a rush to refill these previously empty positions, with some postings on job-listing websites, like Indeed, offering cash bonuses for applying to and/or accepting a job.

Texas has not been immune to the shortage, with employment recognized as a state-wide concern for months. Earlier this year, on May 13, a letter written and signed by 38 Texas businesses, associations and chambers of commerce was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott. The communication addressed the organizations’ worries about COVID-19’s permanent impact on the workforce.

“We are hearing from our constituencies all over the state that finding and hiring workers in Texas is increasingly difficult,” the letter said. “Important Texas jobs are going unfilled, threatening our state’s recovery and economic future.”

One of the signatures at the end of the letter belonged to the Texas Restaurant Association. This group represents a line of work hit especially hard during the pandemic, as restrictions on building capacities increased and the number of customers willing to dine out for a meal decreased.

Four months later, food service is struggling with the exact opposite: an extreme influx of customers. Local Denton businesses like Fry Street’s Crooked Crust have since been swarmed with students as the fall semester kicks off.

“Denton was a ghost town during the summer with all the students gone,” general manager Justin Dominey said. “I had made plans already to fully staff throughout the summer, so I hired people for August, but I hired them in June.”

Dominey explained that while Crooked Crust is not experiencing a decreased staff, the national worker shortage is still hurting the store when suppliers do not have the means to complete orders.

“I have to look for substitutions on every single truck I order just because they can not get [anything] in stock,” Dominey said. “We’re low on product constantly — every week I have to update what we’re out of.”

Missing products include carbon dioxide for sodas, cheese, specialty vegan crust and regular crust ingredients.

On campus, returning and new student workers are forced to rise and meet similar increasing demands.

“If you’ve seen the Chick-fil-A in the union, it’s tiny,” Kit Wolfe, social sciences junior and former student employee, said.

Wolfe remembered the dinner rushes that would take up their closing shifts but admitted it could not have been as bad as what their former coworkers are now experiencing now.

Since campus is fully open for the first time since the spring 2020 semester, both new and returning students are crowding into university dining locations. The lines for fast food locations like the Chick-fil-a or the Starbucks in the Union have been long since the semester started, as some students have noted.

“During the school week the union is so crowded, pretty much all the retail restaurants have lines way longer than they should be,” theatre sophomore Michael King said.

The overcrowding is almost unfamiliar to both business owners and customers after a year and a half of COVID-19 safety restrictions.

“[The rushes have] been pretty sporadic,” Dominey said. “It’s kind of hit or miss every day.”

Featured Image: A ‘now hiring’ sign is hung in the window of Five Below store along University Drive in Denton on Sept. 7, 2021. Photo by Meredith Holser

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Alex Reece

Alex Reece

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