In addition to retail, the restaurant industry was hit hard during the pandemic but is now showing signs of a healthy return to normal business.

A little over a year ago a major restaurant company, that owns many different brands, shut down all of their restaurants nationwide because of the pandemic. Laying off thousands of wait staff, host staff, bartenders, kitchen crew and other restaurant staff and all of these people lost all of their income.

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Unlike fast food joints, some sandwich shops and pizza joints, dine in restaurants like Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Cheddars Scratch Kitchen and other brands couldn't provide the level of service that their counterparts could, so they had to close their doors and rely on carry out orders only until they figured out how the delivery thing worked or partnered with one of the major delivery providers.

Well now that the state is open and other states are relaxing restrictions on restaurants, restaurants are doing what they can to hire back staff and attract a workforce. In a now very competitive landscape, one company is going as far as giving their hourly employees a raise. Beginning in April, Darden hourly employees will be paid at least $10 an hour, including any tips earned. This is up quite a bit over the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Locally in Tyler and Longview, Darden operates Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen and Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse in Tyler with additional locations in Lufkin, Shreveport and the Dallas metroplex. In addition to this pay increase the company announced that they will steadily raise the minimum wage for their hourly employees over the next two years.

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