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Increased restaurant capacity could spur some hiring

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Posted at 3:24 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 21:46:33-04

SAN DIEGO — When Johan Engman scouts locations for his breakfast-centric restaurants, he always seeks places with lots of outdoor space.

“Just because we're in Southern California,” he says. “Not because I was predicting a pandemic.”

But that criteria sure helped when the coronavirus outbreak hit, and restaurants became limited to outdoor-only seating.

Some Breakfast Republic locations didn't lose any capacity, while others, such as its Encinitas eatey, lost about 75 percent.

“We're surviving,” Engman says. “I think 2020 is really about being here in 2021.”

On Monday - a little help making it through the year.

Gov. Newsom and the county paved the way for restaurants across San Diego County to serve tables indoors at 25 percent capacity, after two months of outdoor only. Still, it’s unclear whether the increased restaurant capacity will lead to more jobs- as tens of thousands of displaced workers wait for the call.

In July 2019, more than 130,000 San Diegans worked in county restaurants, according to the state Employment Development Department. Last month - with restaurants at outdoor only - that number was just 103,000, a nearly 21 percent drop.

Alan Gin, an economist at the University of San Diego, said restaurants will be cautious when it comes to adding staff.

“If they can get by without additional staff I think they're going to try to do that,” Gin said. “But if they're strained, if they're already at capacity and to add those 25 percent they're going to need to bring more people back, I think that's what they'll do.

Engman says Breakfast Republic will be hiring with the increased capacity, but it’s too early to know the number. He says, however, that he is concerned about winter weather amid still mostly outdoor dining in the coming months.

Engman says what would help spur hiring - another round of government stimulus Paycheck Protection Program loans.