MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It may be hard to get a table or quick service at your favorite restaurant.

While fully open, many Twin Cities bars and restaurants are having trouble filling their staff.

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State officials say about 1,500 people were hired last month. Just less than half were in hospitality, and many in the restaurant industry. But as WCCO found out, turning applicants into workers isn’t as easy as you may think.

With a skyline view, and a Scandinavian kitchen, the Hewing Hotel is back in full swing. Like almost every restaurant around, they’re hiring. Nyle Flynn is the executive chef at the hotel’s Tullibee restaurant.

“As executive chefs, it’s our jobs to take cooks and turn them into sous chefs, take sous chefs and turn them into chefs, and that’s how you keep people in the industry for a long time,” Flynn said.

But lately, that’s gotten really tricky. Take last week for instance.

“Out of the 12 interviews, three showed up, nine no-called, no-showed, and never answered for a follow-up phone call,” Flynn said.

He’s had an increase in applicants and a decrease in people following up — something he’s never seen in his 16 years in the industry.

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(credit: CBS)

Celebrity chef Justin Sutherland tells WCCO he’s recently had 50 different applicants not show up for interviews at his St. Paul restaurant, Handsome Hog.

The situation is even worse for Chef Stephan Hesse, the partner of Pajarito and 14 total regional restaurants.

“Out of a 100, 150 people that have applied that are looking for jobs that I set up interviews for, half a dozen to a dozen actually show up,” Hesse said. “It’s been pretty difficult.”

In order to maintain unemployment insurance in Minnesota, job seekers are told they must seek jobs weekly, and record that in the self-reporting system.

“I don’t know if it’s the unemployment benefits, it’s hard to say because you just don’t know,” Hesse said.

What is clear is this industry is now hiring.

“We have 50 places fighting for two people that actually want to come back to work, so it’s tough,” he said.

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The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development told WCCO that the situation is complex, and it’s possible people are just finding other jobs. They say the job openings are back to what they were before the pandemic, but the workforce is not.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield