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.
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