County Characters: Restaurant Reflections From A Long-Time Waiter

Sara Lentz has worked in the Maine restaurant industry for over 30 years. A single mother of four children, two of whom are still at home, Lentz has found a balance as a yoga teacher for eight years. (Photo by Nate Poole)

As a restaurant worker for 30 years, Sara Lentz of Edgecomb has seen her profession become a part of the local and national conversation to an unprecedented degree over the past year and a half.

She’s been working in restaurants since she was in high school, usually in the back of the house as a cook or dishwasher. When she had her first two children at 24, Lentz decided she needed to make some money fast, so she took a bartending class.

“Having had children and having had different periods of single parenthood, I found that restaurants had enough flexible working hours that I could make them work,” she said on September 30.

Lentz quit his job at Bath Brewing Company in 2020 when the country was stranded and went out of work for about a year to care for his two youngest children, an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old on the job. autism spectrum, while attending distance school.

She returned to the restaurant industry in March with a job at Sarah’s Cafe in Wiscasset. While all social distancing and masking procedures were new, these changes were superficial compared to staff shortages and changing customer dynamics.

“It was an interesting time to return to the restaurant business,” said Lentz.

She explained that all restaurants are stressful workplaces and calling in sick is always an inconvenience, but with the current understaffing, a waiter taking a day off can make the difference between a business that stays open or that does. closes for the day.

“Even though people tip better and the pay is better, you work twice as hard as before,” she said.

She found that many customers seem keenly aware of the challenges restaurant staff face, due to the extensive media coverage of “essential workers”. She said some clients went out of their way to thank her for what she does, something she never remembers happening until 2020.

While many high school and college students have held seasonal positions at local restaurants this year, truncated training and a glut of shifts on their shoulders has contributed to burnout and dropout.

“These 16 year old kids are trying to talk to unhappy customers or explain why they have to wait half an hour for a table when there are four empty tables. And it’s not something you have the skills to do when you’re 16, ”she said.

Lentz learned a lot about confrontation and communication during his years in the service industry, but it took time and experience to learn these lessons.

“There was a time when I would hide in the kitchen when their food wasn’t ready when it should be, and I’ve learned over 30 years that it’s much better to go to the table and say, “I’m sorry, the kitchen is really shut down right now, and it looks like your food will be ready in 10 minutes,” she said.

Lentz spent her life slowly walking up Route 1. She grew up in Topsham and lived in Georgetown for about 15 years before moving to Bath and Westport Island. Lately, she built a house for her family in Edgecomb.

In her late thirties, Lentz had four children and fast-paced physical labor. Leading this lifestyle was very stressful and she needed a healthy outlet. It was during a yoga class for mom and baby with her youngest son that she decided to pursue yoga and became an instructor eight years ago.

She started teaching about five or six classes a week, generating additional income while also bringing some degree of physical and mental well-being to her life.

“Yoga has really helped me balance my life in so many ways,” she said.

COVID-19 has hit yoga studios in much the same way as restaurants, so she has been teaching limited capacity outdoor classes and virtual home classes since March 2020. She admitted that although she liked the convenience of running classes from home, the environment was not particularly stress-free.

“As a mother of two boys in a semi-chaotic house, (it was) a bit difficult,” she said.

Even now that her sons’ classes are fully face-to-face, she said they had just come out of a week of home school because they were showing symptoms of a cold.

However, Lentz also expressed his gratitude and empathy for everything teachers have to deal with amid the pandemic.

Despite the obvious differences between the restaurant industry and the public education system, Lentz believes professionals from both walks of life have used the pandemic as an opportunity to think about what they want to do with their lives.

“I think they had to totally rethink the teaching,” she said.

Lentz said that for restaurants and school systems to emerge from the pandemic more resilient than before, they will need to reconsider their structural ways to attract and retain staff, rather than simply increasing salaries.

“I think a lot of people who worked in restaurants for a long time, when their restaurants closed for three months, they decided to go back to school or they decided to work from home,” she said. .

Many people are pursuing new avenues due to COVID-19, and Lentz said the past few years have fueled his desire to become more financially self-sufficient. She recently bought land in Alna, and intends to set up a yurt there next year where she will offer yoga classes by donation.

Despite the uncertainty of continued staffing difficulties at local restaurants and the alarming number of state government cases, Lentz is optimistic about the future based on information she and many others have gleaned over the course. of the past year and a half.

“The good thing about it all is that it really made us all rethink our priorities and think about what’s important to us and what we want,” she said.

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The restaurant industry faces labor and supply shortages

MADISON, Wisconsin (WMTV) – New data from the National Restaurant Association shows restaurant sales in Wisconsin have improved since the start of the pandemic, but business operations remain far from normal.

Based on a survey of 4,000 restaurants nationwide, 70% of operators believe it will take more than a year before everything is back to normal and 11% say conditions will never return to what they were before the pandemic.

So what is driving these statistics? Labor and supply shortages.

For Tom Marks – a restaurant industry veteran and front desk manager at Hop Haus – the past 13 months have been some of the toughest in his 25-year career.

“I’m used to having stacks of applications, 30, 40 and I can’t even get people to apply for positions right now,” Marks says.

He says the problems started to escalate last September, when the brewing company opened its second site in Fitchburg at the height of the pandemic. Opening up to 25% capacity was a challenge, but when capacity limits increased, the problems increased as well; namely, a lack of staff to meet the demand.

“There is definitely a labor shortage; we definitely experience it, ”says Marks. “We have a wonderful rooftop terrace at the top and half the time I can’t even open it. it’s just unfortunate.

Kristine Hillmer, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, said restaurant owners don’t expect things to get back to normal anytime soon. In fact, she says, 38% of operators statewide say their trading conditions are worse now than they were three months ago.

This is because the labor shortage comes with supply shortages.

“You have a shortage of truck drivers to deliver not only to port manufacturers or suppliers, but then suppliers to restaurants, so we are seeing huge disruptions, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” said Hillmer.

For Hop Haus, this resulted in difficulties obtaining building materials for the second location and cans for their in-house breweries.

It may take a while for things to improve. In the meantime, Brands and Hillmer ask customers to be patient and kind.

“I just want people to go into a small business like ours and support us for sure,” Marks says.

Copyright 2021 WMTV. All rights reserved.

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Newsom signs bill that will expand restaurants’ ability to sell take-out cocktails with food

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Friday that will expand the right to allow restaurants to sell take-out cocktails as well as take-out food orders.

The law, SB 389, was sponsored by State Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and was designed to continue to help restaurants recover from the negative economic effects of the coronavirus which has severely weakened the entire industry.

As recently as last week, the Fourth Street Social Club in downtown Santa Rosa announced that it would close its doors on Sunday due to losses from COVID-19.

“The ability to sell take-out cocktails is an important step in helping our restaurants, which have been hit hard by the pandemic,” Dodd said in a statement. “This will ensure their recovery, protecting jobs and our economy. “

The bill also applies to bars, breweries and wineries that sell food. The measure will be in effect for five years.

More than 35 states have allowed restaurants to temporarily sell take-out cocktails during the pandemic. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have since passed legislation to make this permanent.

“Take-out cocktails have proven to be an essential part of the survival of businesses during COVID-19 and will only provide increased stability as they strive to get back on their feet,” said Adam Smith, vice-president. -President of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

While take-out cocktails have been remarkable, the biggest trend during the pandemic has been the tremendous growth of canned cocktails with many local distillers such as Giffo, Zaddy’s and Barrel Brothers entering the market.

Also on Friday, Newsom signed another measure, AB 61, which would provide regulatory flexibility for restaurants to expand alfresco dining in parklets and another measure, SB 314, which gives businesses with temporarily expanded premises a deadline of one year grace to apply for a permanent license. expansion.

You can reach editor Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or [email protected] On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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Restaurants bemoan delays with non-digitized suppliers

The restaurant industry has been notoriously slow to embrace new technology. Even though consumer routines like ordering and payment were quickly digitized during the pandemic, behind-the-scenes processes have remained mostly manual for many restaurants. Yet even for forward-thinking restaurants that have taken advantage of the digital tools available to bring their operations online, there’s little they can do. After all, for B2B transactions, digitization is a two-way street.

Brandon Stewart, President and COO of Kensington Hill Capital, which owns and operates 55 Jimmy John’s branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ohio, spoke to PYMNTS about the challenges the franchisee faces in trying to maintain digital efficiency in an industry whose supply chain may be blocked in the past.

“I think our electronic ordering systems are outdated – trying to order products and things like that,” Stewart said. “If it comes from a large distributor, you don’t have a problem, but there are all these accessories you need in the store… Even if [you’re ordering] online it’s still multiple websites, and we don’t have an efficient way for our guys to centrally send us these orders.

At a fortuitous moment, the company automated its operations with a digital restaurant management platform shortly before the pandemic began, so payment processes were already digital at a time when restaurants were scrambling. to make any kind of profit. Stewart noted that by comparing different technology products, he landed on Restaurant365’s solution after noting another franchisee’s success with the company’s software.

“It just made our back office more efficient,” he said. “We thought we might have to hire someone else to manage [those processes], and all of those thoughts were gone when we moved to a digital back office.

In June, Restaurant365 acquired Compeat, a company known for its back office, workforce, and business intelligence software. The combined company serves more than 28,000 restaurants and its products include tools to digitize accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR), inventory management and payroll, among others.

Read more: Restaurant365 acquires Compeat to boost restaurant back-offices

However, for all digital upgrades performed by Kensington Hill Capital, it is still subject to the limits of relationships with other companies and institutions. Stewart noted that local governments still often use paper mail, so dealing with these offices for issues such as business licensing can be a headache.

“I think that’s probably my biggest problem in the back office,” he reflected.

By digitizing its business processes, Kensington Hill Capital is one step ahead. Bhavuk Kaul, CEO of Plate IQ, which creates AP automation tools for restaurants, among other products, told PYMNTS in an interview that many restaurants still operate primarily through paper-based accounting.

“Before us, restaurants would manually upload invoices and push them to a manufacturer’s platform,” Kaul said. “We try to automate a lot of these back-end processes… For us the biggest challenge has always been awareness – people are not aware that a technology like ours exists.”

See also: Plate IQ automates restaurant back-of-house operations to save time and reduce costs



On: Forty-seven percent of U.S. consumers avoid digital-only banks due to data security concerns, despite considerable interest in these services. In Digital Banking: The Brewing Battle For Where We Will Bank, PYMNTS surveyed over 2,200 consumers to reveal how digital-only banks can boost privacy and security while providing convenient services to meet this unmet demand.

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Doing our part to save Florida restaurants

The pandemic has left us all wondering, ‘What just happened? “

I never imagined that a global health crisis would change every aspect of my life, including our convenience food business that has served Tampa Bay for 17 years.

As we continue to recover and get back to normal, it’s more important than ever to remember small businesses and show our support for the community.

The national association of restaurateurs estimates that more than 110,000 restaurants have closed their doors temporarily or permanently by the end of 2020. Florida is officially reopened, but not all businesses have survived. According to Global State of Small Business Report, small business closure rates have fallen to 18% since the start of 2021. For the past year and a half, my husband Dan and I have made it our mission not to be part of these statistics.

Our business, Dinner finished!, was founded on the idea of ​​creating healthy ready-to-cook dinners using fresh ingredients. The backbone of our original business model was in-person classes, and over the years we’ve added a Grab & Go suitcase with ready-to-cook-to-pick up items.

When the stay-at-home order was issued, we had to indefinitely put our cooking classes, a guest favorite, on hold.

Faced with the loss of income from our classes, we always considered ourselves lucky.

In 2017, we updated our website with Grab & Go online ordering, which has now allowed us to fully pivot to curbside pickup and delivery. To manage this change, we have rearranged the now empty cooking class space so that our team can work efficiently while being safely remotely.

This has allowed us to stay open, keep our team employed, and continue to serve the community.

As we continued to evolve, we relied heavily on social media to communicate quickly with customers. Facebook and Instagram have been (and still are) an important part of our success. We were able to post updates to let our customers know that we are still in business and operating safely.

We used direct messaging to immediately respond to customer questions and ran Facebook ads encouraging curb pickup and adherence to CDC safety guidelines to help maintain and grow our customer base.

These efforts have been instrumental in keeping our doors open over the past year. And while Florida is reopened, our local businesses are still very much in recovery mode. Now more than ever, local restaurants need our support, or they won’t survive.

I urge my fellow community members to consider eating local at least once a week.

Support your favorite family or local restaurant by sharing recommendations and posts about these businesses with your friends and family. Join a Facebook group of local foodies and share your positive experience with members. Write a positive review for your favorite restaurants and businesses.

It is more important than ever to support our local businesses and our neighbors so that we can all come out on the other side prosperous.


Audra Nasser and her husband Dan founded Dinner finished! which has been perfecting frozen ready meals since 2004.

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Opening of 2 Peoria restaurants at the new OSF HealthCare head office

PEORIA – OSF HealthCare’s new head office in downtown Peoria will not just have offices.

It will feature two restaurants open to the public, both locally owned.

Great Harvest Bread Company is opening its third location in the space formerly occupied by the Caterpillar Merchandise Store, and a new restaurant called Saffron Social will occupy space at the rear of the building, in an adjoining structure that once housed a grocery store.

“This restaurant, Saffron Social, will be like nothing else I’ve done,” said Travis Mohlenbrink, owner of Spice Hospitality Group, the parent company of six local restaurants, including Thyme, Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro and Industry. Brewing. “We’re going to focus on a fresh seafood plan. … We are also planning to make premium steaks, and we will be making pasta dishes that are like favorite dishes with a twist, which is what I developed my business on. We plan to make this our best location by far. ”

Following:These 6 restaurants are coming soon to Peoria’s new food hall

Saffron Social is expected to be designed in a 1950s Art Deco style.

Craig Janssen, president of Central Illinois Doughboys, the parent company of Great Harvest Bread Company, said his new location will serve fresh baked goods, salads and sandwiches. They will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday, while Saffron Social plans to be open seven days a week.

While it is not unusual for a large facility to include a cafeteria in the construction plan, the integration of two local restaurants is innovative. This is something OSF has planned to revitalize downtown, said Jim Mormann, general manager of Integrated Solutions at OSF HealthCare.

“We have intentionally made the decision not to install a cafeteria in the building,” he said during a tour of the facilities on Tuesday. “It is important that our mission partners (employees) go to the community to take advantage of available services, so we didn’t want to find ourselves in a situation where OSF had in-house cafeteria services. We felt it supported downtown and local downtown businesses.

Want something new? :These 12 restaurants in the Peoria area opened in 2021

Putting local restaurants in the building offers another option for OSF employees.

“We have 500 mission partners here who for some reason love coffee,” Mormann said. “It’s important to make sure we’ve given them options. And the second thing is, we wanted to make sure we had a space that really opened up to the outside. We thought this complements the museum across the street.

“We felt it was an opportunity to start to revitalize downtown rather than trying to, you know, do it on our own,” he added. “So it’s important that other business owners like Travis (Mohlenbrink) join forces with us to kind of get down and keep pushing for downtown Peoria.”

A Great Harvest Bread Company is slated to open in January in the old Caterpillar store, which is now part of OSF HealthCare's new headquarters under construction in downtown Peoria.

Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or [email protected] Follow her on

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Three Bay Area restaurants make the world’s top 50 list this year

Three gourmet restaurants in the Bay Area – Atelier Crenn and Benu in San Francisco and SingleThread in Healdsburg – were named to this year’s list of the world’s 50 best restaurants.

Atelier Crenn and Benu were both ranked in the top 50 in 2019, but this is the first time SingleThread has made the cut.

The 2021 list, the first since the pandemic, was announced Tuesday at an awards ceremony, with Benu at # 28, SingleThread at # 37 and Atelier Crenn at # 48. The owner of the Atelier Crenn, Dominique Crenn, also received this year’s icon. Award “as a chef who” has not only made significant contributions within the hotel space, but has also used his platform to raise awareness and foster positive change, “reads an announcement.

Golden Osetra caviar with potato and onion served at Atelier Crenn, photographed June 13, 2018.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

The famous Noma from Copenhagen again landed the top spot on the list.

The 50 Best Restaurants in the World has ranked the world’s best dining destinations since 2002. The organization behind this influential award has been criticized in recent years for its lack of diversity, both in its restaurant selection and in its internal voting jury. The group is committed to a 50/50 gender balance among its voters in 2019, but the list itself remains insufficient in terms of gender and geographic representation. Only four restaurants on the Top 50 list are run by female chefs. There is only one restaurant in Mainland China and no restaurant in the Middle East or India.

Chef Corey Lee in the kitchen at Benu in San Francisco in 2018.

Chef Corey Lee in the kitchen at Benu in San Francisco in 2018.

John Storey / Special for the Chronicle

Atelier Crenn, Benu and SingleThread have both become dining destinations since their opening, known as much for their food as for the dining experiences there. At Atelier Crenn, the menu is presented like a poem. SingleThread chef-owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton pull produce from their own farm, and some diners also stay at the SingleThread Inn as part of the experience. Corey Lee from Benu is known for reinventing classic Asian dishes, like a millennial quail egg. The three restaurants have also just received three Michelin stars this year.

Prior to 2019, the only San Francisco restaurant to make the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was Chef Joshua Skenes’ Season. Benu has climbed over the years, rising from 47th place in 2019 to his current ranking. Atelier Crenn lost its 25th place in 2019.

Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville has earned a permanent spot on the organization’s Hall of Fame “Best of the Best” list, made up of restaurants that have been named # 1 since the inception of the list. The French laundry took first place in 2003 and 2004.

Due to pandemic restrictions on travel and dining in 2020, this year’s Top 50 list reflects a combination of votes cast in January 2020 and a “vote refresh” in March 2021, according to the organization. Voters were able to update their 2020 selections based solely on dining at restaurants in their own region in the 14 months since the last ballot. All restaurants that have closed permanently or significantly changed their concept since the vote have been removed from the list.

Here’s the full list of 2021 winners, with American restaurants in bold:

1. Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)

2. Geranium (Copenhagen, Denmark)

3. Asador Etxebarri (Atxondo, Spain)

4. Central (Lima, Peru)

5. Disfrutar (Barcelona, ​​Spain)

6. Frantzén (Stockholm, Sweden)

7. Maido (Lima, Peru)

8. Odette (Singapore)

9. Pujol (Mexico City, Mexico)

10. The President (Hong Kong, China)

11. Den (Tokyo, Japan)

12. Steirereck (Vienna, Austria)

13. Don Julio (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

14. Mugaritz (San Sebastian, Spain)

15. Lido 84 (Gardone Riviera, Italy)

16. Elkano (Getaria, Spain)

17. A Casa do Porco (São Paulo, Brazil)

18. Piazza Duomo (Alba, Italy)

19. Narisawa (Tokyo, Japan)

20. Diverxo (Madrid, Spain)

21. Hiša Franko (Kobarid, Slovenia)

22. Cosme (New York, United States)

23. Arpège (Paris)

24. Septime (Paris, France)

25. White Rabbit (Moscow, Russia)

26. The Calandre (Rubano, Italy)

27. Quintonil (Mexico City, Mexico)

28. Benu (San Francisco, United States)

29. Reale (Castel di Sangre, Italy)

30. Twins Garden (Moscow, Russia)

31. Restaurant Tim Raue (Berlin, Germany)

32. The Clove Club (London, United Kingdom)

33. Lyle’s (London, United Kingdom)

34. Burnt Ends (Singapore)

35. Ultraviolet (Shanghai, China)

36. Hof Van Cleve (Belgium)

37. SingleThread (Healdsburg, United States)

38. Borago (Santiago, Chile)

39. Anthology (Tokyo, Japan)

40. Suhring (Bangkok, Thailand)

41. Alléno (Paris, France)

42. Belcanto (Lisbon, Portugal)

43. Atomix (New York, United States)

44. Le Bernardin (New York, United States)

45. Nobelhart & Schmutzig (Berlin, Germany)

46. ​​Leo (Bogotá, Colombia)

47. Maaemo (Oslo, Norway)

48. Atelier Crenn (San Francisco, United States)

49. Azurmendi (Larrabetzu, Spain)

50. Wolfgat (Paternoster, South Africa)

Elena Kadvany is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ekadvany

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Paso Robles restaurants face deadline to request parklet extension

The deadline is looming for businesses in downtown Paso Robles to decide whether the parklets should stay a little longer or leave.

The whole parklet concept in Paso Robles was adopted during the pandemic.

Now businesses have two weeks to decide whether they want to extend their parking permits for an additional 90 days or have their parks removed on November 1.

Makeshift outdoor rest areas found all around the heart of Paso Robles have served as a lifeline for struggling local restaurants during COVID-19 closures, restrictions and uncertainty.

“Well for us it was a lifeline, you know, for all the restaurants, and we appreciated that the city allowed us to be able to take these parking spaces,” said Andre Averseng, chef. / owner of Paso Terra Seafood Restaurant. .

The police department says 60 parking spaces are used for parklets throughout the city center.

Paso Terra is just one of 23 companies that are currently using the outdoor dining option on the city streets.

“Otherwise, we could have been closed a long time ago,” Averseng said.

The city says that due to the recent wave of Delta variants, it is giving businesses the option to extend the life of their parklets until January 31 of next year.

Some restaurateurs we spoke with say the parklets should stay beyond this timeframe because they not only benefit businesses, but give the city center a European flair.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Janet Vonfreymann of Nipomo. “I wish they did it everywhere and I hope they keep it.”

Critics have said that parklets are an eyesore and consume too much parking.

Others say that while some parklets end up sticking around for good, creating more visually appealing structures would be ideal for the downtown area.

“I think if we could reduce the footprint of parklets where they are needed and increase their aesthetic and positive integration, if they were to expand, that would be the best bet,” said Mary Uebersax, owner of a downtown retail store.

Businesses have until October 18 to apply for an extension of their parking permit. Otherwise, it will be deleted on November 1.

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What’s on the menu at WeHo’s dineL.A. Restaurants?

The city of West Hollywood has some of the best dining options in Southern California and the dineL.A. The event is a great opportunity to explore the city’s many delicious and diverse culinary options by tasting selected menu items at participating restaurants at special fixed prices.

dinner L.A. begins Friday October 1, 2021 and ends Friday October 15, 2021. Diners keen to discover new culinary delights or enjoy the restaurants they already love will have a number of options to choose from in West Hollywood, including:

  • Conservatory, 8289, boulevard Santa Monica
  • EP & LP 603 N. Boulevard La Cienega
  • Gracias Madre, 8905 avenue Melrose
  • Granville West Hollywood, 8701 Boulevard Beverly
  • Hugo’s, 8905 avenue Melrose
  • Justin Queso’s Tex Mex Restaurant and Bar, 8917 Sunset Boulevard
  • Bohemian, 8400, boulevard Santa Monica
  • Tessé, 8500 Sunset Boulevard
  • WeHo Bistro, 1040 N. boul. La Cienega

Participating restaurants will offer fixed-price menus for lunch and / or dinner; no tickets or passes are required. A complete list of participating restaurants and their dineL.A. the menus are available online at Prices and meal times vary by restaurant and exclude drinks, taxes and tips.

The City of West Hollywood is implementing COVID-19 vaccine verification requirements for customers and staff of covered businesses, which includes establishments where food or beverages are served indoors. As of October 7, 2021, proof of one dose for clients 18 years of age and over is required for admission to interior areas; As of November 4, 2021, full proof of vaccination for clients 18 years of age and older is required for admission to interior areas. For details, visit the Vaccine Verification Requirements website information page posted at

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According to the restaurant, only half of the candidates show up for the interview

  • Only half of the people who set up an interview at the Denver Chocolate Lab show up for the interviews.
  • Owner Phil Simonson has said he wants to increase his workforce from five to twelve employees.
  • He increased his salary from $ 11.75 to $ 15 an hour in some cases, to entice new hires, he said.

The Chocolate Lab, like many restaurants in the United States, is understaffed. It operates with only five workers, up from 16 before the pandemic, and needs reinforcements.

He hires a mix of waiters and chefs, owner Phil Simonson told Insider. The problem is, only half of the people who set up interviews don’t actually show up.

Two people work in the kitchen, including Simonson, while the other three are part-time waiters, which doesn’t cover all of the restaurant’s hours, he said.

Simonson, who founded the Chocolate Lab 11 years ago, hires between 10 and 12 workers.

To entice job seekers, Simonson said he increased his worker’s hourly wage by $ 11.75 an hour across the board and paid $ 15 an hour, plus tips. , in some cases. It also started offering medical and dental care packages to workers.

This is still not enough for some people who apply. “A lot of people are going to set up an interview with you and they don’t even show up,” he said.

Average wages for unsupervised restaurant staff hit $ 15 an hour in May, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Like many businesses in the United States, the Chocolate Lab suffers from a huge labor shortage. Some companies claim the labor shortage is because employees don’t want to work, while workers say they want better wages and working conditions if they want to stay for a job.

Simonson had to lay off all of his 16 employees at the start of the pandemic to keep the business afloat, he said.

Once business picked up this summer, he brought back five employees and hired two new staff because a lot of employees didn’t want to come back, Simonson said. Two employees then left the restaurant.

Workers who quit have left the hospitality industry for good, he said, adding that one of his former employees is now training as a massage therapist.

Catering workers have left the industry in droves, blaming low wages, poor benefits and a lack of flexible working hours.

The Chocolate Lab has landed in a pool of debt since the pandemic hit in March 2020, having had none when it started, Simonson said.

He had to take more than $ 100,000 in loans to cover operational costs, he said.

“If we go back to our normal services, I can pay it back in about six months. But if we don’t see pre-pandemic traffic, we’ll probably take a few years,” Simonson said.

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