The rising tide that is our economy is supposed to lift all boats, but that hasn’t been the case for Hoover Alexander, owner of Hoover’s Cooking, one of the few and oldest black-owned eateries in Austin. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to be less labor intensive,” Alexander said via email, “it’s been tougher to attract and keep folks.”
Austin’s unemployment rate is near 2.8%, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor shortages will continue to plague businesses – large and small. Finding a definitive resolution seems remote.
One strategy Alexander has employed has been to cut hours of operation at his restaurant. In November of last year, he discontinued breakfast service. Since then, he has to periodically close the restaurant for a night or two to give the kitchen staff a respite, but he still has concerns about losing people. “Servers and bartenders who we’ve trained,” he says, “leave for places whose customers tend to tip better and/or have higher check averages.”
Although unemployment is very low, wages haven’t kept pace with labor demand, so many workers job hop to get bigger pay increases; many feel they have no choice.
It’s his way to continue to tribute to his native East Austin
Alexander started his culinary journey more than 30 years ago working at the Night Hawk, one of the first places in Austin to have an integrated dining area and front house staff. Alexander wasn’t originally interested in the food industry, he was simply looking to make some extra cash while in college at U.T. He started working as a dishwasher and busboy, moved into food preparation and over time – learned every facet of the restaurant business. After college, he honed his skills at many local restaurants, then with the help of investors he opened Hoover’s Cooking in 1998.
Alexander, a fifth generation Texan, sees the restaurant as more than a business. It’s his way to continue to tribute to his native East Austin roots. In addition, he serves on several boards, mentors other entrepreneurs (including the publisher of soulciti) and gives of his time and donates his food in support of causes that uplift the community. The question now is will the community support him?
As heads in to his 21st year of operation – Alexander does what he can to keep Hoover’s Cooking afloat.