By Joseph Chalfant

Country-wide worker shortages have forced employers to come up with unique solutions to meet their needs.

Food and restaurant supply wholesalers have begun hiring out-of-state truckers to fill the employee vacuum left by the pandemic. In New York, Chef’s Warehouse, a billion-dollar supplier for the restaurant industry, is renting out hotel rooms for drivers from Alabama and other states to meet demand, according to the New York Post.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we’d be doing this — putting people up in hotels to work for us,” CEO Christopher Pappas told the New York Post.

The drastic measure means that consumers are paying more at checkout. Pappas noted that the company’s customers were paying 7% over their orders last quarter. Popular products and cooking staples like soybean oil, meat, and kosher salt are up 54%, 20%, and 30%, respectively. Some restaurants may have to raise prices to keep their margins.

According to the New York Post, there are still 15,000 trucking and 17,500 warehouse vacancies across the food industry, amounting to companies running at 12% under staff.

With the pandemic winding down, many are wondering what is causing the worker shortage to continue.

Critics of the Biden Administration have noted that substantial unemployment benefits during the pandemic may turn some away from rejoining the workforce. In May, Republican governors started to suspend the extra $300 a week unemployment checks, hoping to spur an employment boom.

The transportation shortage is one element in the growing supply-chain debacle that has taken hold across the US. Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell is concerned that unfilled jobs could lead to higher than expected inflation as the economic recovery progresses.

In early June, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to launch a new task force to combat the logistic problems facing the re-opening economy.

As part of the initiative, the administration has pledged to invest $4 billion of USDA funding to rebuild the food industry and strengthen “supply chains for food production, food processing, food distribution and aggregation, and markets and consumers.”