Whether it’s a grocery store, department store, or pharmacy, most people experience waiting for service.
And many know why — employers are having trouble finding workers amid what’s been called a big resignation. I quit my job to retire early, start my own business, or seek greener pastures.
But perhaps no shortage is more noticeable than in restaurants.
According to Dennis Mikkelsen, communications director for the Colorado Restaurant Association, 64% of Colorado restaurateurs say their restaurants don’t have enough employees to support customer demand.
“We hear that finding and retaining employees has become more difficult than at any point since the pandemic began,” Mikkelsen said.
So does Jake Topacus, owner of Jake and Terry’s Greek Taverna in Old Colorado City. After having to close on Mondays and Tuesdays due to staff shortages during the busy summer months for restaurants in Old Colorado City and Topacus, he wanted to reopen 24/7. .
But then two cooks and one dishwasher quit.
“This is like nothing we’ve seen in 25 years,” says Topakas. “We got a new guy, we stick with them for a little while and then you know they’re gone. They didn’t show up on time.” , it’s just a no call no show.”
Topakas said the workforce instability has prevented the core group of dedicated employees from keeping up with some of the demands of the job.
“We’ve always made everything here at home from scratch. We took a lot of pride in desserts like that,” Topakas said. But my staff here can’t keep up, so I had to add two purchased desserts made in a factory somewhere.”
Topakas is about 30% from fully staffed.
“It’s been a really frustrating past year in my life,” he said.
Topakas most emphasized the need for backhouse staff.
So does Bailey Richardson, manager of Dos Santos, a taco shop that has been in business on East Moreno Avenue in downtown Colorado Springs for four years.
In the past, “sometimes we would have up to 30 applicants in one night,” Richardson said. “…now he’s getting one or he’s two a day, maybe he’s getting five tops a day.”
As a small business, Richardson said it would be difficult for Dos Santos to keep up with the incentives that larger companies can offer.
“With so many different places trying to offer so many things, it’s hard to get people interested,” Richardson said.
That’s why Dos Santos recently raised wages, Richardson said. She said that helped retain more experienced staff.
Taco shops are also trying to give their employees plenty of time off.
“We offer a very flexible schedule and are very flexible with people’s needs,” says Richardson.
“…we’ve kind of created a culture where if you need a vacation to get away from here, another person will come along and help them when it’s time to take a vacation.”
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Dos Santos typically tries to cut staff in the fall, Richardson said, but the restaurant is understaffed as some employees leave school or change jobs. .
“I think people realize how important work-life balance is after spending so much time at home,” said Richardson. “And they may be trying to find a career that brings them more joy than in the past, wherever they live or whatever it is.”
In addition to labor shortages, restaurant owners are frustrated by rampant inflation. Wage increases are just one of the many cost increases Bob Snacks faces operating five Dickies BBQ Pit locations in Colorado Springs and multiple locations elsewhere in the Front Range. .
Rusnak said: “…we are a value proposition for our guests and we cannot raise our prices fast enough or high enough to cover it.”
For restaurant owners who have survived the pandemic, inflation and worker shortages are hampering an expected recovery as COVID-related lockdowns and public health mandates drop in the rearview mirror.
A recent National Restaurant Association poll found that 46% of Colorado business owners said their current business conditions are worse than they were three months ago, largely due to rising food, labor and other operating costs. Yes, Mikkelsen said.
A typical restaurant has a pre-tax profit margin of about 5%. Rising operating costs, with food prices up 21.8% and labor costs up 18.3% since 2019, are unsustainable for most restaurants, Mikkelsen said.
“So be kind and patient when you go out to your favorite local restaurants,” Mikkelsen said. “They are doing their best to provide great service with a reduced team.”
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