By Alicia Barr
The service industry is in a crisis. If you’ve tried to go out to any of your favorite restaurants lately, you’ve probably noticed they’ve reduced their hours, or are closing early, or are even having to close for entire days. All of this is for the same reason: We simply can’t hire enough staff to make it sustainable.
It’s not for lack of trying. Some employers are offering signing bonuses and referral bonuses, or even are offering a cash incentive for people simply to show up for the interview. The majority of local jobs pay well, with many offering medical and retirement benefits. There simply aren’t enough people looking for a job to support the demand. While this is not just a local problem, Truckee/Tahoe is especially impacted. Supply chains are still a mess, and the timing of the lunch/midday/dinner rushes are all over the map.
What does this really mean? It means that those employees who have chosen to go back to work and show up every day are exhausted and burnt out. It means employers are scaling back hours and days of operation in order to protect their staffs and give them a break. It means that we often run out of items or end up with hour-long waits in the middle of a Wednesday, because these are truly unprecedented times. It’s not a matter of throwing money at overtime pay. It’s a matter of recognizing that our staff are important and not commodities to be used up and discarded, and that these are stressful work conditions. As a member of business leadership myself, I know that protecting their mental well-being is very important to us. We simply need more staff.
So here is our collective plea to everyone: Please be kind. Please be patient. Please do not spend three minutes yelling at a host because they have stopped seating, per the posted hours. Please do not slam the door in the face of an employee as they try to explain and apologize that they had to close early because two cooks are sick, and they were short-staffed to begin with. Please do not yell at someone that they deserve to go out of business because they had to unexpectedly close down for a day simply to give their staff a break. Please do not say to a host “Are you f***king kidding me? This is bullsh*t,” when a service employee tries to tell you it’s currently an hour-and-a-half wait. Sadly, all of these instances have actually happened, and I know there are countless more stories like them.
Hospitality needs to work both ways. All of us in the service industry are passionate about what we do. We truly enjoy inviting you into our establishments and breaking bread with you, sharing our passion with you, and striving to be a bright spot in your day. But we also ask you, as a guest in our home-away-from-home, to be courteous, gracious, and respectful. Most of all, we simply ask that you be kind. Our staff is family to us, and we will continue to stand by and protect them.
After a year and a half of limitations, it’s exciting to be able to dine out with friends again and share good times and laughter. All of us, patrons and proprietors alike, should be looking at these experiences as opportunities to enjoy the social interactions and the little things that make life so wonderful. We should also all be cutting each other a little slack, and showing a little empathy, as we relearn our way forward while adapting to a new and constantly evolving world.
Our region is fortunate enough to have a large variety and number of restaurants for our size. On this current path, however, we are going to burn out and lose the people who make that possible, and that would be a loss for all of us.
~ Alicia Barr is the co-founder of Truckee Craft Ventures (5050 Brewing, Drunken Monkey, and Old Trestle Distillery), which began in Truckee in 2007. She is also a former mayor of Truckee and a world champion Ultimate Frisbee player. In her spare time, Alicia enjoys mountain biking, trail running, and snowboarding with her family.