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Arizona restaurant revenue surpasses pre-COVID levels; industry still faces worker shortages

Bar and restaurant revenue in Arizona is up significantly from pre-pandemic levels, according to Steve Chucri, CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association.

“It’s been a remarkable recovery and we’re posting about $23 billion in restaurant sales this year in Arizona is what we expect,” he said on a recent edition of PBS’ “Arizona Horizon.”

Chucri also said hiring and retaining enough workers is still a challenge.

“I would equate it to driving a car with a spare tire. It’s functional, but not optimal. So, while we are increasing the number of employees we have in our restaurants, you also have to remember we’ve had new restaurants open post COVID. That’s more jobs to fill. That’s more seats to get," said Chucri.

He indicated front-of-the-house workers like greeters and servers are hardest to retain despite robust salaries.

According to national preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the restaurant industry continued to expand payrolls at a moderate pace in May. Eating and drinking places added a net 33,100 jobs in May on a seasonally-adjusted basis.”

Tom Maxedon is the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition on Saturday and Sunday from 6-10 a.m. and All Things Considered on Monday from 3-6 p.m.