The manager of a Korean BBQ spot in the East Bay was under fire on social media for a posted sign in the restaurant asking customers to be patient with the level of service which has been impacted by hiring trouble — and the sign blames too many people "on EDD" who don't "want to work."
It's an issue that's being echoed in cities across the country: As the economy reopens with a vengeance, businesses are barely able to keep up with demand as they struggle to find people to fill open jobs. And San Francisco restaurateurs are feeling it as much as anywhere.
Chef-owner of Frances and Octavia, Melissa Perello, told Hoodline last month that reopening her two restaurants "will more or less be like opening two brand new restaurants." And she's been actively advertising for line cooks and other workers in an effort to get Octavia open first, later this month (an opening date has not been announced). This process will then be repeated as she tries to reopen Frances by late summer.
Namu Stonepot and Sunset Squares chef Dennis Lee — who recently discussed his pivot to a food-hall concept at the former Perennial space in SoMa being driven by the trend away from fine dining — tells the Chronicle this week that he's also having trouble getting his business back open because of the overall lack of interest in restaurant work.
"I see that in every type of food business, from food trucks all the way up to fine dining," Lee says. "It’s hard to find people who want to work and have the same fervor for work."
The above note was displayed last week at Gen Korean BBQ in Concord and subsequently posted to the Bay Area Eats Facebook Group by a group member who just thought it was amusing. The subsequent firestorm of comments called the note "unprofessional and cringe" and various commenters noted that no one should be blamed for wanting the security of unemployment benefits.
Gen is a chain with dozens of locations around California and Nevada, and this does not appear to have been a message that came from corporate. As the Chronicle notes, while the posting may "miss the mark" in terms of tone and messaging, it still speaks to the real problem reverberating all over the region and the country of staffing up in the service industry.
Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and a restaurant owner herself, tells the paper that the shortage has driven businesses to hire people with less experience, and it's meant that owners and chefs are being put to work in the dining room too. The problem stems not only from people collecting unemployment checks, but also from the fact that many experienced servers and cooks left the Bay Area last year.
"All of these things are resulting in many fewer responses to ads, and those that are responding don’t have much experience in a restaurant," Thomas says.
What will this mean for dining out in the coming months? It means you should feel lucky when a meal comes off without a hitch, and you should feel patient when it doesn't and don't take out your frustrations in the gratuity — or on Yelp.
Diners who get too demanding about service, in other words, need to check their egos until the restaurant world gets back on its feet.