OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma City is suffering from a serious service industry labor shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic and now continues to be fueled by the growing medical marijuana industry.
“It’s not just servers. There are cooks, prep cooks, dishwashers, employees in front of the house, behind the house, I mean, it’s literally crazy, ”said Cathy Cummings, owner of Vito’s Ristorante.
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She looks for waiters and says she is far from being the only one. The need for staff in restaurants and bars on the subway is worse than ever.
“Not only did we get a hit during COVID, it was so hard and challenging,” said Cummings. “So here’s just one more obstacle we’re facing right now.”
Before suggesting this, Cummings told KFOR that the problem was due in part to mass migration into the cannabis industry.
“I wouldn’t go back to the restaurant business,” said Katie Prouty.
She was one of countless Oklahomans laid off when quarantine measures shut down the service industry last year, but she and others who have spoken with KFOR agree that it was a blessing in disguise.
Prouty moved to a cannabis job at Timeless Refinery, where the job is less demanding, feels more valued by her employers, and has health benefits.
“I’m so happy with where I am,” said Darian Dean, another service industry defector with no plans to return. Dean now works as an extractor at the cannabis company Oil Tycoon. “You have set hours, you have a fixed pay, and it only takes a lot of strain out of you because you know exactly what you are going to do.”
Both women agree that the pay scale alone is a great asset. Most medical marijuana jobs start at $ 12 an hour, a far cry from the $ 2.15 servers make, and count on tips to make up for the rest.
“There are people who go out to eat and spend $ 200 and then think that because they only spent $ 200, they don’t have to tip you at all, or they give you 10 percent,” Prouty said, “and that day after day. ” Night after night just runs you down and it kills your ghost. “
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The pandemic has also contributed to an increase in uncomfortable exposure to some customers, especially when it comes to enforcing social distancing guidelines.
“You really feel like I’m going to take this for $ 2.35 an hour or whatever the server wage was when I can go here and make $ 12 an hour in a pharmacy and get benefits,” said Stephen Tyler . managing partner in the Tower Theater.
Tyler said Tower Theater management took steps before hiring became difficult, offering staff $ 10 an hour before tips. Not only do you want to be competitive employers, you also want to create a better work environment.
“Everyone has always been interested in the idea of Tower and what we’re trying to do here,” said Tyler. “I think it goes a step further.”
He said the plan is to find out employee health benefits now.
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