In early March 2020, when the realities of COVID-19 were just dawning on the US, 32% of consumers said they planned to eat at restaurants less often, according to Technomic.
Fast forward to January 2021, and we now know the realities all too well. In December, CNN reported that 10,000 restaurants had closed in the past three months.
Restaurant closures have multiple downstream effects: loss of revenue for their owners, negative effects on local economies, and job reductions/terminations for the people who work there. Those are the people I want to talk about, starting with today’s guest. (I’m hoping to turn this into a series and tell the stories of various people in the industry.)
I decided to invite hospitality professionals to share after seeing things like this on social media:
Here’s the Q&A from today’s guest, a server and bar captain at a restaurant in Las Vegas — it’s a small business off The Strip. The contributor has asked to remain anonymous.
What is the ONE thing you wish your guests understood about the challenges of serving them amid the pandemic?
We are at 25% capacity, which also means 25% staffing with 150% more work. Trying to keep a restaurant afloat during the pandemic is tough. Some restaurants raise prices, some have smaller portion sizes. Most reduce staff. The staff is thankful to be working, but we are spread thin … very thin. Please BE PATIENT. This is a new way of dining for you, and a new way of working for us. We are scrambling as fast as we can to adjust to it.
What is the most frustrating thing that has happened to you as a hospitality pro during the pandemic?
Mean people are the most frustrating thing. People yell at staff for restrictions they didn’t impose. I have had people throw things at me, yell at me, and more, about having to wear a mask. I have had people not tip because they have to wear a mask or can’t have more than 4 people in their party. The staff didn’t impose these regulations.
Has there been ANYTHING good/heartwarming that has happened to you in the hospitality world during the pandemic? (If so, what was it?)
Some people recognize we are hurting financially and tip well. I have also had guests get up and defend me when an unruly guest is yelling at me, etc.
Is there anything else you’d like to share? If so, this is your place!
A couple of pieces of advice:
Don’t take your frustrations out on staff. FOLLOW the rules. Restaurant staff want and NEED to work, so don’t get their establishment shut down or fined because you don’t want to follow the restrictions.
If you are traveling, go to the website of the state, county or city you’ll be visiting to learn about their regulations. Call the restaurant or establishment before you go and find out what the restrictions might be. KNOW the restrictions and guidelines so you know what you are required to do. Behave and BE NICE.
And some deeper thoughts:
The mental health of those in the service industry is really fragile. I have witnessed co-workers having full-blown anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Especially for people with claustrophobia, having to wear a mask is extremely difficult, but they do it to be able to work. In this town, mental health issues are growing. Our industry is right in the midst of the stressors that contribute to this.
Foodservice workers are living on a fine line of financial stability. I am OK, but I have so many co-workers who have had to move back home with parents, etc. This is a supplemental career for me — something I need to do because my coaching business dried up once in-person races were suspended due to the pandemic. For many others, working in the service industry comes with living in Las Vegas.
So many people have said, “Maybe you need to find a different career.” In so many cases, we are here because we love this work. Providing great customer service is in our blood. My customers and fellow staff are like family. Some people are in hospitality by necessity; many of us are here by choice. Especially in a city like Las Vegas where hospitality is such a core industry, saying “get a different career” is the equivalent of telling Las Vegas not to be Las Vegas!
Please, don’t be this person:
NOTE from Paula: I’d love to hear from other hospitality professionals. Full disclosure: I only want to talk to people who are serious about protecting themselves and their customers by following safe procedures. If that’s you, fill out this form and I’d love to consider using your thoughts in a future post if they’re a fit.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
Colleen Gehoski Steinman says
I sincerely hope the hospitality industry can bounce back as more people are vaccinated. There’s a tremendous pent-up demand for getting out and visiting with friends again, which means there’s tremendous pressure on these locations that they may not be able to fill. I hope people are kind and generous – in spirit and in tips!
Paula Kiger says
I do too, Colleen! I can’t see we have COMPLETELY avoided restaurants, mainly when we have been out of town. But it’s not fun (for us or the staff, I’m sure). Anyway, here’s hoping the industry recovers. Thanks for commenting.
We have not been in a restaurant since August, and that was outdoors in CA. But I understand and appreciate this post. I never worked in a restaurant, but I did work as an RN. In serving people, you have to have patience. People can be mean, nasty and selfish and Covid brings out the worst in some. Glad you are getting your vaccine. We are still waiting.
Paula Kiger says
We haven’t been to restaurants much (although obviously I know it only takes one exposure). I’m sure health care pros can relate to this! No vaccine for me yet — I’m looking forward to getting it.
The mind boggles. How can people NOT understand what is at stake here? And I’ll never be able to fathom why there are those who take their frustrations out on the truly helpless. It says so much about the person, doesn’t it? My heart goes out to anyone serving in today’s world. Across the spectrum from the front-line healthcare workers to the front-line food service workers. I’m so grateful for you all!
Paula Kiger says
I feel the same way. Thanks for stopping by.
Black Tortoise Press says
My daughter works as a courtesy clerk (I.e. bagger) at a local grocery store. She is exposed to everyone who walks through her line. For the most part, people are respectful, but not all. She did contract COVID-19 before the mask was mandatory, even though she wore one to protect herself. She had a fever for 7 weeks, lots of other symptoms and loss of taste and smell! Back then, testing was not available in our area. Unfortunately, her boss does not believe COVID-19 is real.
Paula Kiger says
Holy cow. I’m glad she is mostly recovered, but sorry she doesn’t work for someone who respects the awful power of COVID-19.