In December 2020, CNN reported that 10,000 restaurants had closed in the past three months.
A year later, here’s an update from Technomic’s September TIndex, a monthly index that was introduced in April 2021.
“[T]he industry declined 1.1% over a two-year basis but has grown by 17% when compared to the same month in 2020.”
Restaurant closures have multiple downstream effects: loss of revenue for their owners, negative ramifications on local economies, and job reductions/terminations for the people who work there. Those are the people I want to talk about in this series.
Here are the previous posts:
For this post, I’m pleased to welcome Paul Hartford, author of “Waiter to the Rich and Shameless: Confessions of a Five-Star Beverly Hills Server.” Paul and I struck up quite a few social media conversations after I read his book (which I recommend!), and he was kind enough to share a few thoughts here.
What is the ONE thing you wish your guests understood about the challenges of serving them amid the pandemic?
The restaurant business is not back to normal, we are trying our best to accommodate every guest with a grossly reduced workforce.
What is the most frustrating thing that has happened to you as a hospitality pro during the pandemic?
Encountering entitled guests with no empathy for the challenges the restaurant business is facing during this pandemic.
Has there been ANYTHING good/heartwarming that has happened to you in the hospitality world during the pandemic? (If so, what was it?)
Once in a blue moon, I have received a huge sympathy tip which I may not have necessarily deserved, but meant the customer noticed us struggling to do our best.
Is there anything else you’d like to share? If so, this is your place!
Recently, I sent my wife to McDonalds (1 mile away from our house) at 7:30 p.m. to pick up two burgers and some fries. I stayed home to prepare a salad. It took 45 minutes to get her order. The poor girl at the window apologized and explained she was working the whole restaurant alone with two brand new employees.
Even though this McDonalds pays more than $15 per hour, they can’t get and keep staff to work. The young girl begged us to complain to the owner so that they could become more aware of the hell she was experiencing trying to process and serve orders. Though I haven’t called yet, I’m sure the owner is aware of these circumstances.
My question is this: Is it better to just close on nights when the restaurant is not even near fully staffed and put up a note that says “closed due to staffing issues”? Perhaps customers would become more aware of this situation and develop more empathy and compassion for these small struggling businesses. (These particular owners own two McDonalds in our area of rural New York.)
I’ve noticed in our area that some restaurants are closed three out of seven days to avoid staff fatigue and preserve the integrity of service and food quality while taking a loss in profits. Many other restaurants are working their reduced staff to the bone, to sheer insanity, in order to preserve profits.
What is right?
Business debt, greed, short-term, long-term profit goals, human compassion, are all factors that play an important role in such complex decisions.
A note from Paula
I appreciate Paul’s insights, especially since I know he is well-versed in the hospitality world. Please note that there’s still time to buy a copy of his book and gift it to a friend (or yourself!).
I see the issues in hospitality morphing as the pandemic plods on. In January of this year, masks and mask requirements took precedence in a world that didn’t yet have vaccinations. By the time I spoke with Mike in September, the supply chain and labor shortage issues were creating the biggest stresses. And as Paul said, “things aren’t back to normal.”
I had some inklings that this outcome may have been in the realm of possibilities during my conversation with Mike, and Cabo’s closed its doors in October. Having talked so in-depth with Mike for this post, the hug we gave each other when my husband and I dropped in for a last visit was heartfelt and bittersweet.
My final Cabo’s margarita, chips and salsa
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.