During the coronavirus pandemic, most places in Santa Fe struggled to stay afloat. Restaurants and theaters closed, and people spent more time at home. A lot of adults became unemployed, and jobs usually sought after by teens were unavailable during lockdown as well.
Restrictions have now been lifted, but this doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing for restaurants. Santa Fe is plastered with “Now Hiring” signs as restaurants struggle to fill empty positions. The silver lining is there are more jobs available to teens in Santa Fe than there were before.
Angela Mason, one of the owners of Santa Fe Bite, writes in an email, “Like most of Santa Fe and the rest of the U.S., we have more jobs to fill than people to fill them! In our case, it led to having to close our doors one more day a week to be able to provide the level of service we promise to our customers.”
Mason adds, “I am hearing from other restaurant owners and managers that there are more teens looking for work than seasoned restaurant professionals.”
Some adults are less willing to take minimum wage jobs because they want security after a brutal year. Some are still receiving government assistance, which allows them to hold off for a more ideal position. Parents are also having a hard time finding suitable child care and cannot return to full-time work. This leaves empty slots in the job market that teens are more than willing to fill.
Downtown restaurant Cowgirl BBQ closed for a few months during the pandemic and had to lay off all of its employees. Now, it has reopened and is extremely busy, with a noticeable increase in young workers.
Patrick Lambert, president of the Cowgirl, confirmed there has been an influx in teenage applicants.
“For many of the younger employees, this is their first job. There’s a certain naiveté and sweetness to it. At the same time, the training has to be painfully detailed,” Lambert writes.
Sophia Froehlich-Gerke, 16, who will be a junior at Santa Fe Prep, completed this training and now works as a host and helps with to-go orders. This is her first job, and many of her co-workers are teens, too.
“There are many other teens working with me. A large number of the bussers and hosts are teenagers,” she writes. Even though Froehlich-Gerke is considerably younger than some of Cowgirl’s other employees, she said the only disadvantage she sees is having to wait to be a server until she is 19 years old.
Fire and Hops is a restaurant and bar that also serves artisanal ciders. Co-owner and manager Josh Johns believes the pandemic definitely opened more job opportunities for teens and writes that Fire and Hops is “not seeing many applications from non-teenagers.”
Lucia Rosen, 17, a student at New Mexico School for the Arts, works at Fire and Hops as a busser and hostess. She has worked other jobs before and is currently working as a retail salesperson at WearAbouts. At Fire and Hops, she works with three other teens and said they have a good dynamic.
“I do think COVID-19 helped open more doors for me and a lot of other teens,” Rosen writes, adding she doesn’t believe there is a disadvantage to being a teenage worker. “I understand my place and job within the business, and that has nothing to do with age.”
Rosen recommends work in the service industry to other teenagers in Santa Fe and beyond.
“I would highly recommend getting a job in a restaurant, especially as a teen. You create a better awareness and appreciation for people who work in restaurants, and it is a great way to increase your people skills.”