Florida restaurant industry returning to normal as hiring increases

It has been a long, hard year for the restaurant industry.

There are signs that Florida dining is returning to normal and sooner than many expected.

There are a number of factors at play here. For example, vaccines, a recent drop in jobless claims, and the busy travel season. Business owners are breathing a major sigh of relief.

MORE NEWS: Orlando Magic, head coach Steve Clifford agree to part ways

"It's still tough, but we're starting to see people coming in now," John Horne, the owner of the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, said. "The schools are out so we've got some of the college kids back in town. We've got some of the high school kids looking for hours so we're starting to see that normal influx."

However, just two months ago, Horne said that he was down half his staff. Jobs were posted and interviews were scheduled but hardly anyone would actually show up. 

In response, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association pushed for Governor Ron DeSantis to end the state's participation in the federal pandemic unemployment compensation program, which became official last month. Thus, starting June 27th, unemployed Floridians will no longer be able to collect $300 a week in federal benefits. 

BREAKING NEWS ALERTS: Download the FOX 35 news app for breaking news as it happens and more

Days after this, Florida saw a major drop in unemployment filings. According to the U.S> Department of Labor, the Sunshine State had its first week of new jobless claims below 10,000 since March 2020.

"There are some people who are like ‘uh oh, these benefits are going to expire I better get in ahead of the crowd.’ And so we've seen quite a bit of that," Horne explained. He is now operating with about 75 percent of his staff. He said that he feels much more comfortable about the future now. "They're all working extra shifts. People are cooking extra. We're real close to finding our optimum staff."

Watch FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.