Citywide efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus by implementing social distancing have had a significant impact on local businesses in the Greater Austin area and beyond.
Following an order prohibiting dine-in service issued by Gov. Greg Abbott on March 19, Lake Travis-Westlake restaurants, including Westlake’s Sway and Lakeway’s Sundancer Grill, have temporarily closed out of an abundance of caution.
The necessary measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus have left many in the service industry without work, according to Texas Workforce Commission. Between March 1-18 the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area witnessed a 460% increase in unemployment claims when compared to the same time period in 2019, as previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper.
Despite the increase in unemployment, entities throughout the Greater Lake Travis-Westlake area continue to search for additional staff members, set to begin immediately.
Chris Pallagi, owner of three Domino’s Pizza locations in Austin, said he is looking to hire at least 15 employees, from managerial positions to delivery drivers.
“The positive thing is we are getting applications from say, Uber, Lyft drivers and service industry team members that were laid off or furloughed,” Pallagi said. “But we’re also losing our existing team members.”
Pallagi owns franchise locations in Westlake, Lakeway and Bee Cave, with a fourth store on the horizon. In effort to protect his staff, he has halted carryout orders and reduced operating hours at each location. Despite this action, some employees have decided to leave their positions to self-quarantine.
“Absolutely we’re looking for people ... so much that we might have to temporarily close the Westlake store,” Pallagi said, adding that while staffing was a challenge prior to the virus, the situation only furthered the issue.
Domino’s throughout the Greater Austin area are looking to bring in approximately 350 new employees to ensure that service remains strong, according to a press release from the company.
Pallagi said he is hoping to hire 15 new employees across his three locations, along with an additional 15 following the opening of his fourth location in Bee Cave, which was delayed due to the coronavirus.
Pallagi explained that he is hoping to attract those service industry professionals who may have been left without work.
“There's a lot of opportunities for potential business owners to be in the position that I'm in.” Pallagi said. “I'm young, and I've already been an owner now for four years.”
According to the shelter-in-place issued by Travis County on March 24, grocery stores, pharmacies and other companies are deemed essential businesses and permitted to remain open.
H-E-B and Randalls are among the stores in the Lake Travis area currently hiring, according to Laura Mitchell, Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce president.
H-E-B’s career section of its website currently lists a number of open positions, including a night shift stocker and in-store shopper at its Bee Cave location.
"To support our customers and those Texans displaced from work due to the coronavirus, we’re currently hiring short-term support for our stores," Mojica Johnny, an H-E-B representative, said in an email, adding that within the last few weeks the company has received 60,000 applications for both short-term and long-term positions.
While a number of companies continue to search for new employees, others have implemented temporary wage increases for their existing staff members.
Randalls, owned by Alebertsons Companies, announced it will provide a temporary $2 increase per hour for all nonunion and union frontline associates, in recognition of their team members, according to a March 20 press release.
“In ways that we could not even imagine, overnight, our country changed and as a result it changed the way our teams conduct business,” President and CEO Vivek Sankaran said. “They work every day to keep our communities fed, their pantries and medicine cabinets stocked, and to ensure one less worry on our customers’ minds as we all face this unprecedented pandemic.”
The increase, which will impact about 230,000 staff members, became effective March 15 and will last until the end of the company’s pay period March 28.
Target has also implemented a $2 per hour increase until May 2 in light of the significant contributions made by staff during this time of need, according to a March 20 press release.
The company is also offering the option for vulnerable employees to receive paid leave. Staff members who are 65 and older or those with underlying medicinal conditions are among those eligible for a 30-day maximum paid leave.