Bouncing off COVID-19, what local restaurants want you to know

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With sunny weather, longer days, increased vaccine availability, and relaxed statewide regulations, one of the first things most people want to do is go to their local restaurant. prefer. After more than a year of limited freedom and lost socializing opportunities, re-establishing our social fabric while supporting local restaurants has released pent-up demand beyond the staffing capacities of most restaurants.

As restaurants reopen, be patient with the staff. Some are new hires who learn the ropes while others return to work after more than a year of absence. Photo courtesy of: Harbor Foodservice

Industry groups report that “restaurants have been hit harder than most other industries during the pandemic, and still have the longest recovery to pre-coronavirus employment levels. “

Harbor Foodservice, locally owned and community driven, provides the brands and products necessary for restaurants to continue serving and also maintains a complementary team of catering and chef consultants to provide culinary and operational support. Harbor Foodservice consultant Andy Cook said: “Service meets expectations, hospitality exceeds them. Hospitality is a performance with a lot of complexities behind the scenes. Communicating how the labor shortage affects the flow in a way that informs expectations will hopefully create a more positive experience for everyone.

“For example,” says Cook, “if a customer feels their service is inattentive, it’s probably because the waiter section has 10 tables when it should be 5 or 6. Ditto for a staff. kitchen of three which should be five. “

Cook continues: “Parental priorities, job stability, rising unemployment and other factors are tangible barriers between ‘desired help’ and hiring. New candidates are almost non-existent.

Sign close up text for help with red and white colors by the entrance to the corporate building store during the corona covid 19 virus pandemic
Aside from staff issues, many restaurants face shipping and delivery issues that are beyond their control. Kindness and understanding are essential. Photo courtesy of: Harbor Foodservice

Dawn Mecham, of Visconti’s Hospitality Group, oversees operations at four restaurants and two ice cream parlors in the Leavenworth and Wenatchee areas. She encourages diners to “Please be patient with our young employees, for many this is their first job. For example, to ensure that we are able to meet our high standards of service and quality, we require tables to be left empty to control the volume of orders in our kitchen and bar. Sometimes our guests only see an empty table and express their frustration at not having access to it.

Beyond staffing, Visconti’s hotel group also faces shipping issues. “Our supply chain is always fraught with disruption,” Mecham admits. “An example is that we have a wine list that can be counted in the hundreds; I have been waiting for months for an order from Italy without always knowing when it will arrive. This kind of situation presents itself in an unexpected way.

Dean Damitio, owner / operator of Olympia’s Westside Tavern and the neighboring HASH breakfast restaurant said: “Supporting local businesses and restaurants has been inspiring this year and as restrictions loosen , this support continued. When the challenge of serving with a limited staff leads to product delays or outages, I know we feel like we don’t appreciate their support, nothing could be further from the truth, our customers and their enthusiasm. for us are everything!

Sonya, who is a bartender at a Tacoma area pub, hopes people will remember, “Taking care of our guests is our first job, we always love to do it and do our best. Most evenings I am the only one taking orders, pouring drinks and running the drinks. I get help from the cooks when they are not busy cooking with the food and the bus tables. Patience, understanding and cooperation go a long way, frustration and complaints slow everything down for everyone.

Harbor-Foodservices state-of-the-industry-uptown-grill
Supporting local restaurants as the regulations allow benefits the community, small business owners, restaurant workers, and catering businesses across our state. Photo courtesy: Uptown Grill

Staffing is the main challenge for Carlo, a Federal Way line cook. “Before COVID, our line usually worked six of us, these days, two or three, sometimes just me,” he says. “I hate to see orders that take 30 minutes or more to come out, but we’re doing our best!” We had to reduce our menu a bit to be able to keep up.

Behind the scenes, human resources leaders like Mackenzie are working hard to fill available positions. “Training new people not only takes time, but requires hard-to-devote attention when my seasoned staff is already overworked,” she explains. “One of my biggest worries is whether I’m giving my new people everything they need to start their hopefully long and fulfilling tenure right.

Everyone interviewed suggested staying alert and patient as you venture into this neighborhood hot spot. Be as empathetic as possible with delays and inconsistencies, and remember that disappointments don’t always need to be shared publicly or online – give them a chance to get it right and exceed your expectations.

The summer of 2021 suggests a gradual return to normal. Everyone can do their part to make restaurant meals safe, peaceful and enjoyed. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that progress is slow and uneven. Eat in the restaurant but be patient, tip generously, and take a minute to thank the restaurant staff for all they do. We are all in the same boat.

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