Raleigh’s restaurant industry is still experiencing staff shortages

It’s no secret that the restaurant industry has been rocked in recent years. And while we’re all desperately trying to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, “we’re still dead in the middle of it,” says Nofo owner Jean Martin. Hence the sometimes slow or seemingly poor service — and the empty tables that come with the wait (insider tip: tables can’t be seated if a restaurant is understaffed or a server would be double-seated). Add to that supply chain issues – NTM the residual loss from forced closures – and, well, you pretty much want to be anyone but a restaurant owner. While these restaurateurs have endless empathy for their customers, they are also understandably frustrated. To cover the gap, they and their staff members are working ungodly hours to feed and entertain us – and yet the public remains irritated. Now add the price spikes and “customers feel like they’re getting less for more: less service and less food on the plate for more money,” says Martin. “And we want to do everything we can to meet the customer’s needs.” So, as lovers of the hospitality industry (NTM of hard working people and truth) we wanted to dedicate space in our Top Restaurants issue to some of the best hotel vets in our area in the hope diners give time and grace to these industry vets as they get back on their feet.

Why is staffing so difficult?

“The biggest problem is the lack of employees. It hurts everything in our business. Customers expect a certain level of service, but there just aren’t enough servers working. People need to start realizing that things haven’t gone back to normal and they’ll probably never get back to where they were. Not only are we having difficulty getting qualified people to work, but everything has gone up in price since COVID. We regularly offer special offers to help relieve everyone’s wallet. … We are doing our part to help as much as possible, but we still have to feed our families, so we have to charge accordingly.

–Marilyn Peraza, co-owner, 13 Tacos & Taps

“No one wants to work since COVID. Those who say they do are looking for a ridiculous salary without earning it. People know businesses are hurting right now — not just restaurants — and they’re coming in and doing what they want because they know you need it. Many have received so much government money for doing nothing and now expect this from employers. I don’t think it had to do with sudden closures because it wasn’t just restaurants—a lot of businesses closed suddenly. It’s about getting something for nothing. Our servers earn very well – $20-30/hour in tips, plus a small hourly wage – but that doesn’t seem like enough.

–Anonymous restaurant

“To be honest, I have no idea where all the people are. I know quite a few who have changed jobs, but that’s definitely not all. I think it’s a combination of many things: laziness, changing professions, taking jobs “under the table” and perceiving unemployment, industry fatigue, etc.”

–Anonymous restaurant

“There are not enough people looking for jobs in this industry. Compensation is at an all-time high, up 30-40% in some positions, but opportunities remain. The industry has overworked and underpaid many of its staff for years and this, combined with so many other work opportunities that can be less physically and mentally stressful, is the main source of the workforce problem. work. We are fortunate to have a more understanding clientele than some when it comes to limiting our opening hours. We try to take care of our customers and, just as importantly, our loyal employees who have supported us in these difficult times. »

–Chef Dan Gray, Nofo Cafe

“The staffing is beyond ridiculous. I have never been to any city and no restaurant had such issues with staff. It’s crazy, and it’s not just the restaurants. Almost every business faces the same thing. It’s like Thanos snapped a finger or something.

–Michael Lee, Chef/Owner, M Restaurants

“On the one hand, we are still feeling the ripple effects of COVID. Within days, our entire industry was shut down. Unfortunately, while many other industries have pivoted, it’s not possible to work remotely when managing the floor of a food service establishment. During the pandemic, many people found other ways to make a living or other things they were passionate about and simply did not return to hospitality.

–Sara Abernethy, co-owner, Wye Hill


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Cecil N. Messick