LEXINGTON, Ky. — Restaurants and grocery stores all over the state are adjusting their operating hours due to a worker shortage. In August, Kentucky was one of three states with the largest increases in the quits numering 26,000 people leaving their job, According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What You Need To Know

  • Mamadou “Sav” Savane owns Sav’s Restaurant in Lexington

  • Savane has operated Sav’s for 13 years 

  • Savane is struggling with a worker shortage because of the pandemic, now only operating his restaurant 5 days a week

  • Irene Muala is one of the only full-time employees Sav has

Sav operates a machine inside of kitchen. (Spectrum News 1/Diamond Palmer)

On a typical Friday afternoon, Irene Muala is smiling, cutting, and preparing vegetables for Sav’s Restaurant entrees. The Lexington staple restaurant has been operating for 13 years, run by Guinea native Mamadou “Sav” Savane who has lived in the Lexington community for nearly 30 years.

Muala’s face fills with grins as she cuts eggplants from local farmers in Lexington.

“Sav is a good person, he is my brother from Africa,” Muala said.

She's a Congo native who is one of Savane's only full-time employees and she has lived in Kentucky since 2016. Savane is thankful for her being by his side throughout the difficulties of the worker shortage he's facing.

“I have lived in Kentucky five years, I have three children, I am a single momma,” said Muala.

Employees like Muala are hard to come by, because Sav's restaurant is seeing a worker shortage. Muala and Sav are prepping the West African delicacies like fufu, cornish hen and tilapia hours before they open.

Cornish hens sit inside of oven at Sav's. (Spectrum News 1/Diamond Palmer)

“That is the thing about my food, it is just homey, comfort food. I cut this and I pour,” said Savane.

He's reduced his hours to only dinner, and he is open five days a week instead of seven. Savane is facing a worker shortage like many other Kentuckians, but he is powering through by making the West African delicacy fufu himself.

“Everywhere you drive you will see now hiring, now hiring, everyone is looking to have workers,” said Savane.

Sav needs more workers to operate seven days a week, so he is closed for business on Mondays and Tuesdays. Savane notes he has been able to keep the employees he currently has by raising wages.

Waiters before the worker shortage at Sav’s were making $2 plus tips, now they can expect $5 plus tips. Kitchen staff before the worker shortage at Sav’s were making $10-12 now they are making up to $14. Savane says he needs five more servers and 3 more for his kitchen staff for his restaurant to be able to go back to operating seven days a week.

“So for me personally, I stopped serving lunch because of the lack of employees,” said Savane.

Empty seats and tables is what Sav’s Restaurant looks like during afternoons Wednesday through Sunday because he only serves dinner starting at 4 p.m. on those days. He uses the quiet mornings to prepare entrees and side options so when the restaurant does open for the dinner hour, operations are smooth.

Many restaurants and stores around Lexington are reducing hours due to short staffing. (Spectrum News 1/Diamond Palmer)

“It is a hard decision for me to do it but I do not have a choice,” said Savane.

Many Lexington businesses are reducing their hours and asking for more employees. A few additional businesses with hiring signs or adjustments to hours include Starbucks on Main St, Suttons on Locust Hill Dr., Ginger Wasabi Sushi + Grill on Maxwell St and various other businesses.

“We hope we will survive for the time being and when things go back to normal, I think that we are going to be ok,” said Savane.

The Lexington Kroger on Richmond Road also confirms they have shortened their hours due to experiencing a worker shortage. They are unsure when later shopping hours will return.