Restaurants may be allowed to offer indoor dining under Ontario’s Step 3 of its reopening framework, but some Kingston restauranteurs are significantly understaffed.
The hospitality industry is facing a worker shortage at a time when so many are eager to hit the town and spend after being in lockdown for so long.
One Kingston restaurant that is feeling the pinch is Tommy’s, which has been so understaffed, that owner Tommy Hunter is out on the floor himself waiting tables.
“We don’t have enough servers, at any point, to serve all those sections,” he said. “So on the weekend, when we’ve got people lined up, they see tables that are available. And we have to let them know that, unfortunately, we don’t have staff to serve those tables. We would love to, we just don’t.”
Demands from certain customers prompted Hunter to post on social media, begging customers to be patient with staff as the restaurant tries to serve the overwhelming crowds with low staff and continued COVID-19 restrictions.
Hunter said there have been instances of customers becoming irritable due to slower service.
“People have been great, and for the most part, they have been very understanding,” Hunter said. “But sometimes, late at night, there are some people wondering why they can’t grab that table, why they can’t grab this table when they see it. And I get it. You see an empty table and you think, that could be me sitting there.”
It’s something the Kingston BIA has heard from several restauranteurs in the city: finding staff after a prolonged period of closure has been difficult.
“I think COVID gave a lot of people in the service industry some time to think, and also some time to scramble. You know, they had to survive as well, just like everyone else,” said Marijo Cuerrier, executive director of the BIA.
So now, the focus is on recruiting workers to join or rejoin the hospitality industry.
There is no quick fix, as it will likely take years to fully solve the problem, but plans are in motion to begin the process.
“We do have something in the works to help, let’s say, fill the hopper of recruitment for not only the restaurants, but just hospitality, customer service and tourism in general,” Cuerrier said.
Until things truly go back to normal, restaurant owners like Hunter ask for their clients’ continued patience as the industry readjusts.
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