“We started by closing one day a week again, we started that in March. And then we found that was not enough,” Johnson said. Over the winter break, Johnson said her restaurants could handle going back to the normal hours. However, the situation is now worse than before. Johnson said Bennett’s BBQ isn’t serving breakfast, and the Alamo restaurants aren’t serving lunch Monday through Thursday.
Then, she was closing some of her restaurants an extra day a week in order to give her employees a well-needed break. We first spoke with Johnson about employment issues in August 2020.
“There are people who did not want to come back to work and so it’s a tight labor market made even more challenging by (the pandemic), and so you just had staffing issues everyday,” Johnson said back in August. “I think some people have left the industry, some people have moved and I think some people are still not comfortable,” Johnson said.
Staff at Ober Gatlinburg said the same. “We have struggled for years to obtain local employees. With the amount of jobs available and not enough people to fill the positions, it has always been a challenge. The housing market plays a big part in that. However, we are always trying to recruit local employees through varies outlets,” Tom Royther, marketing manager for Ober Gatlinburg, said. “(Sevier County) is a small town that hosts an incredible number of visitors, so it’s traditionally been tight. There’s also a lack of housing, in a way where people can get to work easily,” Johnson said.
Johnson said lack of affordable housing was partly to blame. As she said before, finding employees has always been tough in Sevier County.
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