Restaurants prepare to reopen at limited capacity, look to hire more workers

Businesses competing with unemployment benefits to keep employees

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s been almost two months since Rouj Creole on Bluebonnet Boulevard opened under normal circumstances.

“It’s fascinating to think that this restaurant at one time could seat 140 people and now basically have 30 people spread around a 5,000 square-foot building," says Stephen Hightower of City Group Hospitality.

Folks can dine-in starting Friday, but based on the governor's recommendations, the restaurant can only operate at 25% capacity and that will only increase. Which translates into business picking up. That's a good thing, but unfortunately, not every employee on the books at the beginning of this pandemic still works here.

“That’s the hardest thing,” Hightower says. “We’ve got employees that have elderly parents and I don’t want to put them in the line of fire. They want to come back to work, but they have to take care of their families first.”

Owner of Rouj Creole on Bluebonnet Boulevard says they disinfect every 30 minutes and have hand-washing stations for customers.
Owner of Rouj Creole on Bluebonnet Boulevard says they disinfect every 30 minutes and have hand-washing stations for customers. (Source: WAFB)

Hightower says it’s imperative to follow the guidelines set by Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana State Fire Marshal. He says his crew disinfects every 30 minutes and have hand washing stations, but the unknown can be scary.

That could be what’s holding some workers back. Restaurant operators find themselves competing with a state check that could be more than what they make. Hightower says he’s working to find the perfect balance.

“Between bringing employees back to work, bringing back to work safely and also navigating the fact that at least in the restaurant business, some of these employees...they’re making more with government help,” he says.

Until then, “rise and adapt” has sort of become the company’s motto. Hightower says the to-go orders have been keeping them busy.

“These employees that we do have been working 65-85 hours a week just to keep our doors open and keep some sort of return on investment. They’re our heroes,” he says.

Hightower says he's thankful state leaders are moving toward reopening. That means workers can do what they love even if for now, it's just in an abbreviated form.

“Our spirits are high. It’s a sign of hope and hopefully, everybody can continue to recover and get back to a normal or closer to normal as we move forward over the next couple of months,” Hightower says.

In an effort to keep up and plan ahead, Hightower placed an ad today. He’s looking to hire more workers in the near future.

To apply for a job with City Group Hospitality click here.

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