A recent experience (last night, actually) in the northern suburbs, but repeated elsewhere with alarming frequency.
My family traveled to our friendly local neighborhood Culver’s for dinner. We arrived at 6 p.m. We could see people sitting in the dining room and customers at the counter, so we assumed the restaurant was open for dine-in.
We got to the door and saw a sign mentioning that the restaurant would be closing at 8. This is a typical scenario — we are all getting used to labor shortages causing a variety of businesses to curtail their hours or even close on certain days. But as we attempted to enter the restaurant, the door was locked.
At the time of our arrival, four other groups were converging on the location. I knocked on the door, hoping one of the workers would hear it. They didn’t, but a customer did and came to the door to talk with us. “I think they’re closing the dining room,” the customer said.
A woman on the outside said, “but the sign on the door says they are closing at 8. It’s 6. Why are they closing?”
Another potential customer said, “this is ridiculous. It’s not 8. They should change the sign.”
“Perhaps they think they’re in Nova Scotia. It’s 8 there,” I offered. That got a chuckle out of yet another customer.
After a moment, a manager who appeared to be a year out of high school appeared at the door. “We’re very short staffed so we’re closing the dining room because we can’t provide the expected level of customer service.”
The woman who had noted the sign on the door said, “well, if you aren’t open, you should have a sign on the door.”
“I’ll go get a sign for the door,” the manager said. Then, reading the faces of the customers he was turning away, said “do you want me to get the general manager? I’ll go get the general manager.” He walked back in to the restaurant, but by then all of us decided to take our business elsewhere.
A few observations:
- As a rule, it’s never optimal to maintain a level of service by providing no service at all. I would guess the people who departed without a meal last night would have spent between $150-200 at the restaurant. Turning away customers is always a bad idea.
- At the same time, what could the manager do? He was trying to protect his workers, who were clearly getting swamped. If the workers who are willing to show up get abused, they will quit. The poor kid was caught between Scylla and Charybdis.
- I have never worked in a restaurant — a desultory semester of work-study in the college cafeteria is my closest experience to that. I have family members who have spent many years in the hospitality industry and they have many, many stories to tell.
- Many restaurant jobs are entry-level work and the pay is generally not great. I see plenty of signs around town with fast fooders offering $15/hour or more, but most locations find themselves short-staffed anyway. People respond to incentives, and most of the incentives are pointing away from the hospitality industry. That could be changed, but the folks who could drive that change are responding to different incentives.
- Our MSM supremos are trying to spray paint the turd. A WaPo columnist tells us to lower our expectations. It’s just this pandemic and that lying son of a bitch, Trump! They would never hurt you. You know that.