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'It's been pretty dire' | Restaurant owners take advantage of new app, but worry workers don't know what they're getting into

Gigpro pairs workers looking for a quick job with restaurants in need of help. But there's more to the app you need to know about.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you’ve tried eating out lately you probably noticed things are likely a little bit different. You may have waited longer for a table or for your food all because of the ongoing staffing shortages.

A new app that pairs workers with last-minute open restaurant jobs is trying to help, but it could cost workers in ways they may not see coming.

It’s called Gigpro, a way to get a last-minute gig. Some restaurant owners say it’s been their saving grace, but they also worry that workers may not understand exactly what they’re getting into.

Paul Verica owns two popular Charlotte restaurants – The Stanley and Orto Italian Kitchen. For him, Gigpro has given him the help he's needed.

"It's been pretty dire straights trying to find people," he said. "The staffing between both restaurants -- I went through 6 to 8 weeks of just hell. All my friends and I talk about, it’s the number one thing we talk about."

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Lately, they’ve been talking about Gigpro, which was designed by a chef in Charleston, South Carolina. The app connects restaurant owners with restaurant workers to help fill last-minute openings. For example, if a server or dishwasher calls in sick a few hours before their shift, the restaurant can find workers on the app and fill the opening easily.

Gigpro launched in Charlotte in January 2021, and already more than
136 businesses are taking part with more than 1,000 workers on the app.

Willaim Dissen owns Haymaker in the Uptown area and says the service has been critical in keeping business going smoothly.

"Things happen, people are out sick and this is a wonderful tool to have as a backup plan," he said.

This leads to the question: where's the money for everyone involved? Here's how the payment scheme works: the restaurants pay Gigpro, which takes a percentage, and then pays the workers. 

This is where restaurant owners worry: the workers are considered contract workers, so no income tax money is withheld from their paychecks. If this system sounds familiar, it is; rideshare companies Uber and Lyft treat their drivers as contract workers too, so drivers have to log miles, track expenses, and set money aside for tax time on their own.

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The main concern for restaurant owners like Verica is if contract workers who use Gigpro understand what that means. They don't want workers to face ticking time bomb come tax time.

"I just hope they’re explaining it to people so when these folks get a big tax bill at the end of the year they’re not caught off guard. It's tough, a lot of the people using the service are lower-income, and getting a $2,000 tax bill could really throw somebody for a loop," he said.

Caroline Hamlett loves being a Gigpro worker and says she knows what it means to be a contract worker. She says Gigpro has reiterated what that entails in the app and on the company website.

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"Of course, I act as if the money didn’t even come in," she noted.

Dissen says as long as everyone understands how it works, it can be mutually beneficial.

"It really has been a fabulous tool, I'm hopeful it will be around forever," he said. "Restaurants are notorious for having turnover."

One thing both workers and restaurant owners love about Gigpro: they can also use it as a recruiting tool. Workers can test out a job and owners can test out a potential employee before making a committed hire.

Gigpro is currently expanding into a number of markets across the southeast. Right now, the app is active in Charlotte, Charleston, and Nashville.

Contact Michelle at mboudin@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing money@wcnc.com.

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