ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — As hospitality businesses seek to bounce back after the pandemic, there have been recent dining frustrations in southwest Virginia.
Some restaurant owners and customers fear that things may never get back to pre-pandemic levels of service.
The manager at Cabo Fish Taco in Roanoke says they are facing challenges, such as expensive ingredients and difficulty with hiring.
“We’re running thin staffed, but we’ll be unexpectedly busy that night, so it just takes a little bit longer for everybody to get their food because we’ll be down a kitchen guy or down a server, so it definitely impacts the rate we can get our food out,” said Amy Haley, the front of the house manager at Cabo Fish Taco.
After 10 years with Cabo Fish Taco, Haley says she’s never seen such a high turnover rate, adding that employees are more unreliable than ever.
Due to the high turnover rate, Haley tells WFXR News that she sometimes has to step in to wait tables, help in the kitchen, or make sure customers are getting the service they need. However, she says there are still unhappy customers.
“When you come to a place like us where we’re fast-casual, they’re like ‘oh, if we don’t get our food in 10 minutes…we’re gonna leave,’ we’re gonna get a bad review,” Haley said.
Even when Haley goes out to eat, she says she’s noticing longer wait times, as well as less staff with less experience.
“Customers get unhappy and they take their business elsewhere or they use some of the alternatives, and there are a lot of other alternatives out these days, you know, Grubhub and things like that,” explained Nancy Hubbard, dean of the University of Lynchburg’s College of Business.
Hubbard, who used to own a restaurant, says these lower standards are being seen all over the hospitality industry, adding that they may not change any time soon.
“I’m not sure we will ever see things go back to the way they were pre-pandemic until we see a real shift in unemployment,” she said.
According to Hubbard, if we see unemployment rise and a recession, people may flock back to those service jobs.
In the meantime, she says all restaurants can do is adapt. The best way to do that is matching what other jobs are offering: health insurance, retirement plans, and bonuses.