HONOLULU (KHON2) — It is an ongoing struggle for the restaurant industry — finding enough workers. Without enough staff, it’s having an impact on when you can go out to eat or drink.

Gyotaku has experienced about a 15% to 20% shortage of staff. They have turned to advertising on television, not to promote their product, but to highlight the positions they have open.

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“We have the demand, but we’re unable to meet the demand. So we started advertising for what we really needed,” Gyotaku owner Tom Jones said.

It is an outside-of-the-box idea that Jones said has paid off, and an industry expert said it is a savvy business move.

“When I saw that I was like woah, that’s smart. This is how you differentiate yourself from other restaurants,” UH Manoa Shidler College of Business professor Jerry Agrusa said.

Gyotaku is also offering $500 bonuses for referrals who are hired to employees and customers, which has turned server Elston Fujimoto into quite the recruiter, although he’s been turned down a few times.

“One of the most common answers that I’ve heard is, a lot of them the parents would probably tell them they rather they focus on their schoolwork.,” Fujimoto said. “So instead of getting a job and I guess balancing college life with work life, they would rather their child would just focus on school and not have any distractions,”

Even with the creativity, Gyotaku is still having to cut back on hours due to the shortage.

“Our hours are an hour to two hours, closing earlier,” Jones said.

Holiday demand looks to stress resources even further.

“Once Thanksgiving starts to roll, this is going to be where we’re really going to be jamming,” Agrusa said.

It is hard to blame unemployment. Hawaii is only slightly above the US average at 3.4%. Statewide there are only about 1,000 claims per week so far in 2022.

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations is projecting 77,720 food service openings by the first quarter of 2023.

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“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Jones said. “I think you’re gonna see more robotics. You’ve seen these robotic server things that they have going on right now. More takeout, simpler menus. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of changes and of course, price increases are unfortunately on their way as well.”