Maine’s oldest Indian restaurant closed its dining room because it couldn’t find enough waiters and chefs, the son of its owners said

A man walks by a 'Now Hiring' sign outside a store on August 16, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
Restaurant staff have been leaving the industry in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Olivier DoulieryAFP via Getty Images
  • A Indian restaurant in Maine said it pivoted to takeout and delivery only due to staff shortages.
  • It currently has around six members of staff, compared to between 10 and 12 in a typical summer.
  • “It’s just really hard to find Indian labor in the state of Maine,” the owners’ son said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An Indian restaurant said to be the oldest in Maine has shut its dining room because it can’t find enough staff, according to the son of its owners.

Van Sharma, whose parents own the Bombay Mahal restaurant in Brunswick, southern Maine, said that the labor shortage had hit it harder than others because it has a specific difficulty: recruiting Indian workers.

“It’s just really hard to find Indian labor in the state of Maine,” Sharma told Insider. “Indian people, Indian chefs, Indian waiters, they have no desire on wanting to come to Maine for work, regardless of the opportunity.”

Sharma added that workers would sometimes come to Maine but leave after a few weeks because of how rural it is and how few people of color live there. “They love to concentrate in more Asian-concentrated neighborhoods or areas of the US,” he said, naming New York City, New Jersey, Texas, and California.

Maine is the least diverse state in the US, according to 2020 Census data.

Sharma said that he’d used some US recruitment companies that specialize in South Asian workers but that “essentially every single one of them is extremely dry on talent.”

This was coupled with a lack of interest from seasonal workers, including college students, whom Sharma said usually made up a large part of the restaurant’s staffing during the summer. Workers have been leaving the industry in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Sharma said that Bombay Mahal had been “highly understaffed” throughout the pandemic but “right now is probably the rock bottom in regards to actual staffing.” He said that the restaurant currently had around six members of staff compared with the 10 to 12 it had in a typical summer.

The restaurant closed its dining room and pivoted to takeout and delivery-only about a month ago. Other restaurants across the US have shut their dining rooms or cut their opening hours.

Sharma said that Bombay Mahal was advertising roles with base pay of $US15 ($AU21) an hour. He said that staff were also offered meal allowances, performance bonuses, and a family-style lunch each day.

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