I am sure that most, if not all, of you are aware of the labor shortage in the country, and restaurants are finding it exceptionally hard to find help. If the pandemic didn’t hit them hard enough, just when restaurants have permission to operate at full capacity, many are finding themselves in a position to limit their hours or cut their seating because they don’t have the staff they need to operate efficiently.
To make things worse, after being stuck in for over a year, people want to dine out in a big way. It is a double edge sword, and our favorite Hudson Valley restaurants are feeling the pain. I am sure that many restaurants owners are experiencing many sleepless nights worrying about this new challenge they are facing.
A few days ago, a Facebook post by High Falls Kitchenette went viral. The post highlights the struggle restaurants are facing and offers some suggestion on how you can help them get through this hard time. You can read it here, the post is on June 29th.
In another Facebook post, well known Hudson Valley Chef Ric Orlando weighed in with his thoughts and adding much more “food for thought” to the conversation. His comments are bulleted pointed below. I hope you will take time read and share it too. It is time to be understanding about the challenges our favorite restaurants are facing. The Hudson Valley is famous for its amazing restaurants, and we are all in this together. Let’s show them the love!
The most alarming situation facing restaurants, hospitality and retail is the acute labor shortage. Not only does it directly affect restaurant’s ability to staff, but it also drives up the prices of everything coming in the door.
Seasonal businesses whose survival depends upon the flow of summer revenue are not able to maximize their hours because they can’t staff their businesses. That will make for a bleak winter. Many will go under.
Fewer and fewer culinary students are going into actual restaurant cooking.
America’s immigration policy is desperately in need of a reality check. Without immigrants, our entire food system is in danger of collapse.
Fewer high school kids are taking summer jobs. Parents, take note: kids who work summer jobs turn out to be more successful adults. Google that. It’s true.
Consumers are demanding more and want to play less, playing right into the hands of the chain businesses who are owned by huge corporations and hedge funds.
While chains are offering more deals end bargains, many independent restaurants have been forced to offer less: such as smaller, easier to cook menus and lower levels of service, because they do not have the personnel to keep doing it as you have come to love it. And if they can find the staffing, they can’t afford to pay them all.
Without regulations on housing and rents, cell phone costs, insurance, student loans, banking fees, etc., the idea of a living wage will continue to rise above what any retail or food service business can afford to pay without raising their prices through the roof.
Why do we expect mom and pop business owners to cover the insane cost of health benefits for workers when many can’t afford to pay for their own? We are the only country in the civilized world that does it this way. It is not working. It’s time to rethink.
The independent restaurants I know, who offer the kind of quality product I desire do not “make bank” anymore. If you are a good operator, you can make a living, maybe making a 5% profit. There is no room to increase wages unless the model is drastically changed.
You’ve all seen Anthony Bourdain tell the stories of the kitchens he worked in. I can tell the same stories. For years, the restaurant industry was a steppingstone for workers. For every five workers, one may have become a lifer, considering the restaurant business a long-term career. The remaining crew were immigrants and transients and students, artists and musicians who were looking to make a little money on the side with super flexible hours. It hasn’t been considered it an actual career option. Maybe it is time we change that.