SHARON, Pa. (WKBN) – There was a time Donna’s Diner in Sharon was open seven days a week for breakfast, but now at 10 a.m. Thursday morning, the place is still closed.
Laura Ackley works for Winner Hospitality, which operates the diner as well as Buhl Mansion in Sharon and Tara in Clark. She says this past year has been the toughest she’s had, getting through the pandemic and all its restrictions, but now comes the hangover.
“Business has never been busier, and we are doing it with less people, less resources,” Ackley said.
Pre-COVID-19, Ackley says 20% occupancy during the weekend at the Mansion and Tara was fairly typical. Weekends were usually better.
Now, they’re busy all the time, but because of staffing problems, one of the main dining rooms at Tara is closed.
Ackley says months of extra unemployment has made it tough.
“It’s difficult to compete with making all of that extra money to sit home and not work,” Ackley said.
The hiring situation has been so bad and so widespread, people with Mercer County Career Link in Sharon held a four hour long job fair about a month ago to help restaurants and hotels in the Shenango Valley, but only 12 people showed up.
In addition to offering higher wages, food prices are increasing, too. There’s also the added expense of paying thousands now to online employment services to help find new workers.
Ackley admits she needs a dozen.
It all affects the bottom lines.
“It doesn’t magically disappear and get absorbed into the companies,” Ackley said.
In the end, she thinks eventually that will mean higher prices for everyone.