- Restaurants are closing earlier or shutting their dining rooms because of the labor shortage.
- They say this means they can provide better and faster service and save money on labor.
- But one cafe owner said some staff actually quit after she cut its hours.
If you’ve eaten out recently, you may have noticed that it was a little different.
Some restaurants are opening later and closing earlier, while others are shutting their dining rooms altogether.
In some locations this is because of rising cases of the Delta variant or a lack of ingredients due to supply-chain problems. But many restaurants say it’s because of the huge labor shortage.
Both independent restaurants and chains including McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Starbucks have been changing their opening hours or pivoting to takeout-only both because they can’t find enough staff to operate as usual and because labor is getting more expensive.
Many of the restaurants Insider spoke to said they had little choice but to slash hours or shut their dining rooms.
Willie Degel, the owner of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, said its Manhattan West Side restaurant, which was open 11 a.m. to 11.p.m. seven days a week before the pandemic, is now only open 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday. The chain’s restaurants in Georgia are operating on “minimal hours,” too, he added.
“In the restaurant business you have to control every penny,” Degel said. He based the new opening times on the restaurants’ sales and labor costs per hour.
“Everything is numbers,” Degel added. He decided against closing Uncle Jack’s dining rooms because it mainly had sit-in diners.
Robert Cvetkovski, the CEO of Rhumcay Island Grille, a 700-person restaurant in Destin, Florida, cut back on most of its late-night entertainment.
“Due to the limited staff we had to decide the quality of life for the team members already overworked,” Cvetkovski said. He said he felt that eliminating nightlife and late-night hours would help create a more stable environment.
Robin LaForge, who owns Cheniere Shack in West Monroe, Louisiana, decided to shut his restaurant two days a week and close it an hour earlier on other days, after its staffing fell by roughly three-quarters.
LaForge said that this meant that customers were getting better service and food, though he said that this has contributed towards revenues dropping by up to 40%.
But swapping a company’s opening hours can actually make it harder to find staff. Mirna McCormack, who owns Korner Cafe in Lewisville, Texas, said that some staff quit after she changed its closing time from 9 p.m. to 3 p.m. because they could only work evening shifts.
Most restaurants planned on chopping their opening hours in advance — but some have closed randomly after finding themselves short-staffed. This includes Joey’s Chicken Shack in Pennsylvania, which closed for a day because it couldn’t get enough staff in. A burrito restaurant in Georgia also had to temporarily cut its opening hours after its entire staff quit.
Some restaurants have temporarily stopped dine-in or takeout
Bombay Mahal in Brunswick, Maine, closed its dining room and pivoted to takeout-only.
Owner Raj Sharma told Insider that during the pandemic the restaurant had a lot of new customers who only ordered takeout. Sharma said that the new model worked “very well.
Kelly’s Gingernut Pub in Cape Charles, Virginia, is one of the few others that did the opposite by stopping takeout. Co-owner Colleen Kelley said she wanted to prioritize dine-in customers to ensure service was quick and food was high-quality.
But sometimes orders were still slower than usual. “You ask [diners] to please be patient, but sometimes they forget,” she said. “They get mad, and then you get a bad review.”
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