Southern Mississippi’s food industry is feeling the impact of labor shortages

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) – Blue Marlin is back in business. After an 18-month hiatus, the Gulfport Restaurant held a soft opening Thursday.

“We hired completely new staff and did a lot of training,” Clint Taylor said. “We held a few mock service events. Last night we opened to the public. We didn’t tell many people about it, but we had a successful first night back.

The business opened in 2019, but Clint Taylor said it was difficult to find people to work with.

“We were just understaffed for a minute,” he said.

It’s a problem everywhere. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, the food industry is struggling to retain workers, experiencing consistently high quit rates.

“People really like to come and have a barbecue at the Rib Crib,” said Rib Crib general manager William Henson. “We just have to bring people who like to come and cook the barbecue to the Rib Crib.”

Rib Crib Barbeque in Ocean Springs opened last October. On Tuesday, the restaurant was named business of the month for March.

“As we grow and develop, we always need great people in different positions to grow with us,” Henson said.

In February, businesses added 678,000 jobs across the country. Yet, according to Yahoo Finance, employers are trying to fill 11 million positions, almost the most ever. Companies raise wages and offer benefits, hoping to recruit workers.

Taylor said this time around the Blue Marlin is taking a different approach.

“We need to let people know that we are open for business, hiring and spreading the word. We did creative and non-traditional things to engage our employees,” he said.

Further down Highway 90, William Henson and his team have a similar plan that seems to be working.

“We’ve kept more first-day employees at this restaurant than probably any restaurant I’ve ever opened,” he said.

Experts say much of the labor shortage stems from part-time workers used to working intermittently, who pulled out of the workforce during the pandemic.

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Edward L. Robinett