Kentucky restaurants continue to struggle with ‘ghosting’ issues, staffing shortages despite decreasing quit rate

A waitress takes orders at a Ramsey's Diner in Lexington on Friday, November 19, 2021.
A waitress takes orders at a Ramsey's Diner in Lexington on Friday, November 19, 2021.(Jeremy Tombs)
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 10:19 PM CST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - New numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday show that Kentucky leads the nation with the largest percentage point drop in people quitting their jobs in September, as well as the largest decrease in job openings.

But those positive trends are still not being felt in certain fields across the commonwealth, such as the restaurant industry.

Rob Ramsey has owned Ramsey’s Diners for 32 years and says he’s never faced as difficult a spell as in the last 20 months since the pandemic started.

But Ramsey added that he hasn’t had to deal with people quitting, saying that his group of workers has stayed through thick and thin.

“We’re so fortunate we haven’t had that because if you tell somebody they need to work on Sunday and they say ‘Well, I’m not going to work Sunday’, they can just not show up and get a job on Monday somewhere else,” said Ramsey.

What Ramsey has struggled with is people appearing to have interest in jobs, when they actually don’t.

“We’ll put an ad out and get 30, 40 resumes sent to us through these internet platforms,” Ramsey said. “We maybe get four or five people come back to us, set up interviews and generally speaking, one or two of them will actually come to the interviews. We’ve had a few where it went well - we liked them, we thought they liked us and they just didn’t come to work. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Kentucky Restaurant Association President Stacy Roof says this has been a huge issue for restaurants across the state.

“That whole ‘ghosting’ thing is real and has been really prolific in the past few months,” said Roof.

Roof says staffing shortages continue to be one of the most crucial issues for restaurants in the commonwealth for a variety of reasons, and the pandemic is still playing a part.

“It’s not an industry where you can just Zoom in,” Roof said. “You have to be there physically and hospitality is all about that personal connection and making guests feel welcome and taking care of guests.”

Roof pointed out that those statistics may hold true for restaurants in rural areas. But she said that restaurants in areas like Lexington with lots of competition have yet to feel any positive shift.

Both Roof and Ramsey say with wages rising and opportunities abound, they hope people start to take those opportunities and return to the workforce.

“You can make $30 an hour waiting tables, you can make $20 an hour cooking now, and that’s a change,” Ramsey said. “So hopefully as word gets out, people start seeing the restaurant industry as a means to an end. We are a stepping stone industry.”

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