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MONIQUE BATSON — Short-staffed restaurants ready to serve job seekers

As the kids and I traveled down Nederland Avenue Sunday on our way out of town, we started pointing out “now hiring” signs as if it were a game of “I spy.”

Hamburger Depot, Bobby’s Homestyle Cooking, Burger King, Whataburger, McDonald’s.

The sign outside Dairy Queen says, “We want you — $150 sign on bonus.”

Last year we watched as COVID wrecked the restaurant industry. Shutdowns forced layoffs, furloughs, and small staffs to handle curbside orders in an effort to stay afloat.

According to the Labor Department, almost 8 percent of all job openings in March 2021 were in the restaurants and hotels.

And in May when Governor Gregg Abbott opened the state to 100 percent, understaffed eateries had pre-COVID crowds with post-COVID employment.

At the height of the shutdown, unemployment in Texas reached 6.7 percent. The state began giving unemployment benefits strictly to people who were afraid to work due to exposure risks. However, those benefits will no longer be available June 26. A press release from Abbott’s office said the focus would now be finding jobs for the unemployed.

And if you’re one of the affected, it seems the restaurant industry would be a good place to start.

Often I hear people say, “I’ll work anywhere but fast food.” But as a person who believes any job is better than no job, I’ve never understood it.

My first job was at the Nederland Sonic, where I worked for three years, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I learn budgets, bills and what it felt like to be on my feet 12 hours a day; but I also made life-long friends. While I was a teenager, we had a number of employees that were middle age. And we all blended like family.

So if you’re looking to re-enter the workplace, check with the restaurants nearby.

But if you’re not, please keep restaurant staffing in mind when visiting them. These aren’t the days to post on Facebook a scathing review about slow service and irritation that your drink wasn’t refilled seven seconds after you finished it. Servers are spread thin and taking on twice the load for very little money. Please be patient with them. Remember to tip at least 20 percent of the total bill, and tip in cash when possible.

In the same respect, perhaps avoid hosting large parties or gatherings in restaurants that do not have a room set aside for such events. Or if you do, tip accordingly. Servers rely on tips from customers, and each one is assigned a number of tables to care for. If a large party takes up five tables and stays for hours, it prevents that server from being able to assist multiple tables over a long period of time.

And while it’s easy to hit a drive-thru, don’t forget to visit locally owned eateries that struggled to survive the shutdown.

Things may feel a little more “normal,” but they’re not. Like the virus itself, the effects from COVID are long lasting. It’s never been a better time to focus on the good while enjoying the world again. After last year, we could all use a little of that.

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.