HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, Ark – A restaurant in Hot Springs Village is pulling out all the stops to try and get new employees in the doors.

Xplore Lakeside says they’re paying their student employees an extra hour to do homework.

Staffing shortages have been a problem across the nation since the pandemic started.

Xplore Lakeside says its restaurant group is down about 20 employees and staff has tried everything to get more applications.

“We’ve tried employee referrals, thousands of dollars of online ads and newspapers,” Xplore Lakeside owner Greg Jones said.

Jones says he employs many student workers. With more hours added to their schedule, students said it became difficult to do both work and school.

“I got a lot of hours put into here and a lot of hours put into homework,” high school senior Payton Musler said.

Jones says his executive chef came up with a new idea a few weeks ago, hoping to encourage more students to stay and more to apply.

“I said ‘How about I make you a deal, you guys can sit upstairs for an hour before your shift starts on the clock, do your schoolwork, I’ll feed you and then when you’re done with your hour you can come downstairs’,” Executive Chef Drake Bielert said.

Bielert says this takes out any obstacle students may have with being able to work and keep business moving.

“It’s a give and take relationship,” Bielert said. “If we can help you guys and you guys can help us we’re all here for it.”

Bielert says the new program has been in place for about three weeks. Right now it’s helped him retain the two student employees he has. He’s also hoping it will give students incentive to apply so they can get out of the staffing shortage.

Right now, the restaurant group says it’s down about 20 employees across seven restaurants.