Restaurants struggling stay open: Many say closures are likely if workers don’t return

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are struggling with staffing due to the coronavirus pandemic. While employers argue that long-term, enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments discouraged work – worker advocates say it’s far more complicated.

However, lifestyle changes are also making waves. Many in the service industry work part-time hours, or only keep those jobs as a secondary income. The pandemic prompted many to reconsider their needs, but as restaurants and bars reopened – there were fewer people ready to go back.

It’s been months though, so what’s happening? The restaurant industry has been hardest hit. “It’s never been this bad. There’s been many situations where I would have fired many people in many situations… where now over the last, you know, 700 days, if somebody tells me they’re not coming in, it’s just they’re not coming in, that’s end of story,” explained Ross Mueller with the Mueller Restaurant Group.

Many local restaurants were closed on the Labor Day holiday – not because they ordinarily close – but because staffing is an issue. Many of them have also had to significantly overhaul their weekly schedules to maintain operation.




If it continues, restaurant owners say it will mean closures.

“If you go to three different restaurants and they’re all closed, and then the fourth place you go is kind of a little understaffed and really busy…there’s kind of already some frustration going into the situation and then you get there, and it’s gonna be a 45 minute wait on top of, ‘we’ve been looking for a place to eat,’” Drew Nye added.

“What people are getting paid has gone up a lot through COVID through the staffing challenges. So that is going to be a long lasting benefit,” Nye said. “Obviously we want we want everyone to make a fair wage and COVID and the staffing challenges have helped make that a reality.”

For Mueller though, he goes back to the original premise – looking at the future of the restaurant industry. “I’m a little nervous on that. Honestly, I wonder if people have shifted gears on their job choices. But the other thing is that we have to worry about as we’re also going into a slow season here…so the weather is going to change and the patios are going to close, and so we have to forecast that as well,” he added.


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