Dayton, Ohio – Almost every single restaurant in United States is facing staffing shortage, a growing problem in the last couple of months. While a decent number of restaurants were forced to close due to the pandemic, the rest of them are still operating but with major problems.
Until September, restaurant owners blamed the federal weekly benefits for the staffing shortage, but the problem was not solved even after the program ended at the beginning of September. In the holiday period when more indoor gatherings are expected, restaurants across the country had to adapt with the current personnel they have to overcome the increasing demand.
Many restaurants in Miami Valley and Dayton were also among those who had to adapt for the holidays and the rising number of Covid-19 cases when even the fully vaccinated are contracting the virus. That said, local restaurants’ employees are working more shifts and longer hours to keep up with the holiday season rush, as the restaurant industry’s staffing shortage wears on.
Wheat Penny in Dayton has a core group of employees filling in the gaps, but COVID-19 and seasonal illnesses have them back to short staffed.
“Over the last six weeks, we’ve gotten closer to being where we want to be optimally, but with people being out, that’s just thrown it away,” Wheat Penny owner and chef Liz Valenti said.
According to Valenti, another thing their restaurant is doing is training staff for other positions. With the training in place, one employee can cover multiple positions in their restaurant.
“A couple of our servers, they are bar backs, they work the host stand, so it’s really cross-training people so that if we do have people out, we can get those shifts covered,” Valenti said.
John Barker, Ohio Restaurant Association president, is aware of the staffing shortage problem and he encourages restaurants to adapt and overcome the staffing shortage problem that almost every single restaurant is affected of.
“We see a lot of restaurants opening late, maybe not opening for lunch, we see places closing early,” Barker said. “Even places like coffee shops we see only opening in the morning. Which intuitively makes sense, but, you know, coffee shops need to be open more than that to make money and survive.”
Barker pointed out that restaurant owners should not only look for new employees in such situation, but they should also work on rising the salaries to the current employees and keep them happy while at work. According to a data presented by Barker, there are 575,000 open jobs in the foodservice and hospitality industry nationwide.
“You have to open up every day and serve great food, offer great hospitality, but to do that, you have to have good staff, and you got to take care of that staff first,” Barker said.
While a decent number of restaurants across the country were forced to close due to pandemic, a trend that is also seen in Ohio since last year, new restaurants are opening around the state.
“You kind of look at that and go wow, that’s pretty optimistic in this environment, but people just believe in the future,” Barker said.
For months now, restaurant owners are asking for patience from their customers, as they try to provide the best service they can.
“Independent restaurants, we’re doing our very best,” Valenti said. “We are thin on staff, we’re tired, but this industry is what keeps us going, we want to be part of it and we want to be here to serve you.”
In 2022, the ORA will be starting an initiative to help restaurants improve their workforce and will introduce a new “Restaurant Ready” training program.