Finding enough staff to open all sections of local restaurants is a problem, members of the Sandy Springs Hospitality Board said. Credit: Pixabay

 The Sandy Springs Hospitality Board is concerned that the return of employees to offices following the height of the pandemic may amplify staff shortages at local hotels and restaurants. 

“I’ve met with the Restaurant Council on Tuesday and said, ‘Hey, everybody’s coming back, you’ll be able to open for lunch and stuff,’ and rather than excitement I saw panic,” Mayor Rusty Paul said during the board’s March 31 meeting.

Restaurants can’t always open more sections of their dining areas because
they lack staff to cover them. And the level of experience shown by the more
limited staff numbers is clearly seen, several board members said.

City staff has returned in somewhat of a hybrid mode. Some work can be done
at home by certain positions with the city of Sandy Springs, Paul said. But
everybody must be in the office a certain number of days each week. Working
from home requires approval from the city manager.

The world has changed, and the city must adapt, he said. What CEOs have told
him the city also has experienced, which is a loss of the transfer of knowledge
between people working in the same office.

“I think there’ll be some kind of effort to try and strike a balance to
allow people with kids and others who can’t work, childcare or whatever, to try
and help balance that,” Paul said. “But I think everybody’s going to have to be
in the office, have a certain number of days each week.”

The board members agreed that this hybrid office scheduling will continue to
have an impact on restaurants with fewer people from nearby offices going out
to lunch.

In other board-related news, employees of Sandy Springs tourism agency, Visit Sandy Springs, will get raises and bonuses for the first time since the pandemic.

The 2.8% overall total increase in the budget for salaries and bonuses could
be absorbed in the current budget, said Toni Carlisle, interim finance
director for Sandy Springs.

Paul reminded fellow board members that at the height of the pandemic travel shutdown, a proposal to cut salaries was rejected by the board. Since then, staff salaries remained unchanged.

“We’re getting back to trying to catch up with what should have normally
been done over the last two years,” he said.

The raises are within market rates and reward the staff for the job they’ve
done, Paul said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.