CINCINNATI – When John Lanni, co-founder and owner of the Cincinnati Thunderdome restaurant group, was invited by CNN to join the network’s mayoralty on Wednesday night with President Joe Biden, Lanni immediately knew what he was going to ask for.
And when called, he took advantage of his turn in the national spotlight to inquire about the labor shortage.
“We employ hundreds of hard-working team members across the state of Ohio and across the country,” he said. “And we’re looking to hire more every day as we try to restart our restaurant business. The whole industry, among others, continues to struggle to find employees. How do you and the Biden administration plan to incentivize those who haven’t yet returned to work? Hiring is our top priority right now. “
Biden, from the stage of the auditorium at Mount Saint Joseph University, responded at length. But Lanni, as well as Jean-François Flechet, owner of Taste of Belgium, did not like his answer.
Biden said they were not paying workers enough, suggesting they should pay $ 15 an hour or more, instead of $ 7 or $ 8 an hour.
“I think it’s really a question of people now deciding that they have the option to do other things and that there is a shortage of employees,” Biden said. “People are looking to make more money and to negotiate. And so I think your business and the tourism business are really going to be in a bind for a little while.”
But Lanni and Flechet say they pay, with tips, at least that in most cases.
“I was hoping he would recognize that this is every industry’s dilemma,” Lanni told The Enquirer after the event. “We are going through a job crisis and we need to find a way to get people back to work. I just heard that restaurants are going to have a hard time moving forward and that we have to pay our workers more, ”said Lanni. “It’s happening and it’s still not enough.”
Lanni said 80 to 90 percent of the employees at his company earn more than a living wage, if you consider $ 15 an hour.
“I feel like he didn’t really answer the question,” Lanni said.
Thunderdome received a loan of $ 5.9 million in April 2020 under the paycheck protection program which has since been canceled and another loan of $ 1.9 million in April 2021.
Flechet agreed with Lanni, with whom he attended town hall, and had his own list of questions prepared, if he had been called.
He was planning to ask questions about the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which he said is essential for minority and women-owned restaurant owners.
“I understand where the president was going; everyone deserves a living wage;” said Fléchet. “But he was confusing the answers. It wasn’t a living wage. Anyone who works at Thunderdome or Taste of Belgium earns more than $ 15 an hour. I’m not sure if they fully understand the challenges that face them. we are facing.”
And it is essential, he said, that the government understands the problems.
“If we can’t find workers, restaurants can’t survive,” Flechet said.
The White House press secretary addressed the issue again on Thursday, citing the government’s efforts to help through the restaurant catering program.
“I think what the president was noting is that at this point it’s also a labor market, and in some places you may have to pay more wages to attract workers,” he said. said Psaki. “Of course, we don’t have all the details on his individual situation, but we have put in place a major program that has helped restaurants stay open, something that we strongly supported, which we advocated as part of the (American Rescue Plan). “
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Joe Biden’s Town Hall: Ohio Restaurateur Wants Workforce Shortage Answered