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Restaurant owner working all the jobs he's struggling to fill

"To be a good leader you need to be able to roll your sleeves up. I would never ask any of my employees to do something that I haven't already done or won't do."

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Dining rooms are filling up but behind the scenes, kitchens remain empty. As restaurants struggle to find workers, business owners are getting creative to serve a flood of customers.

That includes Baratta's Restaurant owner Joe Gatto in Des Moines, Iowa. In order to keep his business running, he's been working in the kitchen, doing the dishes and cleaning tables. He can't find any new workers to meet the demand, so he's doing the jobs himself.

"Everything in this restaurant is my job," Gatto said. "Whether that be to wash the dishes or bus a table — to be a good leader you need to be able to roll your sleeves up. I would never ask any of my employees to do something that I haven't already done or won't do."

As the customers keep coming, Gatto said he feels like he's starting from scratch.

"After 29 years, things are supposed to get easier. I feel like we're in year one, that we just opened the restaurant, to be honest with you," Gatto said.

Despite the need for workers, Gatto said he has not received any applications since the start of the pandemic. It's left him wondering where the workers are and why there are so many vacancies.

According to Iowa Restaurant Association president Jessica Dunker, part of the answer may be that 35% of restaurant workers have left the industry.

"We were easy pickings when COVID hit, and we were mandated shut," Dunker said. "Some of our most valued employees had to find sustainable income in other industries, and they're gone, and likely, we won't see them back. So it's going to take us a couple of years to rebuild our workforce."

But until then, Gatto said he'll continue to roll up his sleeves and do whatever it takes to keep doors open and food on the table.