For 67 years, Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant has had one item starring on its menu.
“I make turkey in every way you can imagine,” explains Sim Willey, third generation owner of this Meredith institution. “Turkey piccata, turkey dinner, turkey croquettes, turkey nuggets.”
Hart’s is a big restaurant, seating about 600 diners at full capacity. On a busy day, Willey cooks and serves 100 40-lb turkeys, along with burgers, seafood and other family-dining staples.
Most summers, Willey will operate Hart’s with 230 employees. But this year, he’s struggling to fill open positions.
“I’m approximately 100 short on my staff this year,” he says.
Restaurants across the state are in the same position: emerging from the pandemic that limited their capacity for more than a year, but now struggling to hire enough people to prepare for what’s expected to be a busy summer.
This mismatch in the job market is pushing up wages. At Hart’s, starting salaries for dishwashers and other kitchen positions used to be $12 an hour, but are now $15-16, depending on the job. Even so, Willey says he’s lucky to get one applicant a week.
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