May 21, 2024

chezvousrestaurant

The Food community

Help Sacramento CA restaurants survive COVID work shortage

4 min read

Manuel Gomez, a server at Burgers and Brew in midtown Sacramento, takes stools and chairs outside for diners Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, after the state announced the stay-at-home order was lifted for the greater Sacramento region. Restaurants are feeling the effects of a nationwide staffing shortage, but customers can help by following a few simple tips.

Manuel Gomez, a server at Burgers and Brew in midtown Sacramento, takes stools and chairs outside for diners Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, after the state announced the stay-at-home order was lifted for the greater Sacramento region. Restaurants are feeling the effects of a nationwide staffing shortage, but customers can help by following a few simple tips.

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After more than a year of enjoying our favorite restaurants in takeout boxes and saying goodbye to beloved institutions that folded under COVID-19 restrictions, Sacramentans are eager to dine out again. Unfortunately, most restaurants aren’t ready. The service industry is being squeezed by nationwide labor shortage.

“Many restaurants are overwhelmed just trying to serve 25% of their usual indoor customers with spartan staffs,” The Sacramento Bee’s Benjy Egel reported. “Sacramento-area restaurants and bars employ 17,000 fewer people now than they did a year ago, a drop of nearly 25%, according to Employment Development Department statistics.”

Most eateries are actively hiring, but filling jobs has been difficult. Industry experts say that generous unemployment benefits, fears of coronavirus infections and more lucrative options in other sectors have made it hard for restaurants to attract workers. Some owners say that people are considering more stable career paths after all the dramatic turns of the pandemic.

If we want our favorite locales to survive the transition to a fully-reopened California in June, patrons will need to play a role until these forces work themselves out. As someone who spent almost a decade working in kitchens, I have some advice:

Be patient and be flexible

Scarce staffing means that bartenders may be pulling double-duty and waiting tables or helping with takeout orders. Servers could be stuck with way more responsibilities, including hosting, food expo and cleaning tables. Many are also starting a new job.

If your appetizers arrive before your cocktails, that’s OK. If you’re waiting in line and see an open table that hasn’t been cleaned yet, don’t stress out about it. It’s going to be a while before dining operations resemble their pre-pandemic form. Remaining flexible and encouraging staff goes a long way.

Keep ordering takeout

Eating at a restaurant is one of the easiest ways to feel a sense of normalcy. California Restaurant Association CEO Jot Condie told The Bee that “we are, as an industry, the welcoming party for people coming back out to the world.” But Condie also warned that a small wave of restaurants could close over the next year, due in part to the staffing shortage.

By now, most eateries have nailed down their takeout system and will still offer it going forward. You’ve probably developed your own habits. To-go meals will ease the burden on staff as indoor dining ramps up.

Tip generously

If you have the means, consider tipping more than the standard 15%. Dozens of Sacramento restaurants are competing for workers, and a reputation for hosting generous customers could lure reluctant workers back on the job. It’s hard to compete with the extra $300 per week unemployment benefit, but the current staff will also be more inclined to stay if their hard work yields better returns. For those of us who were privileged enough to keep our jobs and work from home, tipping 20% or even 25% could have a major impact.

Don’t trash local spots on social media

A bad review on Yelp is the last thing a restaurant needs as employees try to revive a business that endured a lengthy closure. People are checking hours and service options before every trip right now. A low rating at the top of the most recent reviews could scare off business at a critical time for restaurant owners.

The restaurant industry was devastated by pandemic closures. Some ignored health orders while others collapsed under the weight of COVID restrictions. But I’m optimistic about the recovery of Sacramento’s vibrant food scene and its growing stature in the Michelin guide. I’m also eager to dig deeper into The Bee’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

If we want our favorite spots to survive this next phase of recovery, customers must temper their expectations, practice patience and expect hiccups until things have a chance to get back to normal.

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Yousef Baig is the Assistant Opinion Editor for The Bee. He previously covered local news and sports for The Press Democrat, Petaluma Argus-Courier and Napa Valley Register. He’s the eldest son of Pakistani immigrants, an Atlanta native and proud University of Georgia graduate.

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