Off the menu: labor shortage is impacting restaurant operations

As the pandemic-stricken US economy progresses into a partially vaccinated and for the most part reopened phase, the restaurant industry continues to struggle with a hiring crisis of almost epic proportions.

While simplistic explanations for this shortage of workers tend to focus on generous unemployment benefits, the reality of the situation is probably more complex., an online marketplace for hourly jobs, recently released its Summer Hiring Report 2021, an overview of the labor market served by the company. Part of this report dealt with a survey of applicants for hourly employment serves, and the results of this survey show that the “hiring crisis” is more than a question of extra money.

When asked what was preventing them from re-entering the hourly labor market, only 4% of those questioned admitted that they were waiting for their unemployment benefit to end.

Many more respondents – more than a third – said they wanted to work but couldn’t due to family or scheduling issues due to the pandemic.

Being overly cautious was also cited as an additional reason for not wanting to return to work. Some of the current unemployed say they want to see higher immunization rates before returning to jobs involving a lot of public contact.

Another factor that tends to be overlooked in analyzing the current labor shortage is demographics. Even before COVID-19, the total number of 18-29 year olds, an age group in which the restaurant industry had traditionally drawn the bulk of its employees, was declining, and this demographic trend is expected to continue for at least at least a decade or more in the future.

Other solutions to the hiring crisis, such as paying a “living wage” and offering permanent working hours, also pose significant challenges for the restaurant industry. Doing one or both will increase salary expenses; Coupled with the current surge in food prices, the resulting upward pressure on costs will put serious financial constraints on restaurants.

For now, at least, expect the restaurant labor shortage to have predictable consequences for restaurant audiences – higher menu prices, shorter opening hours, and, in some cases less attentive service as understaffed operations inevitably struggle to keep up.

Avellino in Sturbridge is hosting another Cooking with Rico party on July 15th at 6:30 p.m.

Table 3 Restaurant Group Executive Chef Enrico Giovanello will present traditional dishes from Puglia, in southern Italy. The culinary traditions of Puglia draw on an assortment of ingredients – seafood, olives, tomatoes and chickpeas – to create a simple yet delicious interplay of taste experiences.

The evening includes tastings of each dish prepared by Giovanello as well as selections of wines chosen to accompany each recipe. The event is priced at $ 57 per person or $ 47 without wine. Taxes and tips are extra.

Reservations can be made by calling Avellino at (508) 347-2321.

In conjunction with Holyoke Community College’s Business and Workforce Development Program, the MGM-HCC Culinary Arts Institute in Holyoke is presenting a series of virtual baking classes this summer.

Designed to be family engagement activities, each pastry class focuses on making a sophisticated (but easy-to-make) dessert specialty. The next session, which is scheduled for July 9 at 4 p.m., will feature a chocolate and strawberry trifle. The Bagatelle is an Americanized take on a classic English dessert, with layers of brownie, chocolate mousse, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream.

Classes are taught virtually by chef Maureen Benton, pastry chef at Wilbraham-Monson Academy in Wilbraham. In-home participants receive recipes, shopping lists, and instruction sheets that allow them to cook with Chef Benton during the 90-minute Zoom session.

Tickets for the event are $ 49 and can be purchased online at

Additional virtual pastry classes are scheduled for August 6 (cream puffs and éclairs) and August 13 (flourless chocolate cake).

More information can be obtained by calling Valentyna Semyrog at (413) 552-2123.

This summer, Denny’s have brought back two favorites from the list of the brand’s past limited-time menu selections.

“Cinnamon Sugar Pancake Pups” are bite-sized pancake fritters rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with cream cheese frosting. They come in servings of six or ten.

A patriotic-themed “Red, White and Blue Pancake Breakfast” is also on the summer season at Denny’s. It includes buttermilk and blueberry pancakes topped with sliced ​​strawberries; whipped cream and cream cheese frosting garnish the short stack.

Two eggs, bacon or sausage, and hash browns are also included in breakfast.

There are Denny stores in Holyoke at Holyoke Mall on Route 5, in Springfield on Route 20, and at Enfield in Enfield Square.

“Restaurant Hospitality,” the industry trade publication that focuses on independent restaurant operations, is now accepting entries in its “Best Sandwiches in America 2021” competition.

Sandwiches submitted for consideration must be currently on the menu of an independent restaurant; Hot dog and hamburger variations are not eligible. The deadline for submissions is July 9, and no bragging rights prizes are awarded. The winners will be announced in August.

For more details and a registration form, go to

Wendy’s, the quick-service restaurant chain, has also returned to its “vault” of past menu creations and re-released the “Summer Strawberry Chicken Salad,” a festival of greens the size of a starter built on a mixture of spring lettuce and garnished with strawberries and diced grilled chicken.

The toppings on the salad include bacon, a mix of “Tuscan” cheeses and candied almonds; champagne vinaigrette is also provided.

Strawberry Chicken Salad will be available at participating Wendy’s stores throughout the summer season.

Michael Anderson, the chef-owner of Tucker’s Restaurant in Southwick, has announced that he and restaurant staff will be taking a summer break from Saturday July 3 through Monday July 12.

Anderson is one of many independent restaurateurs who plan their vacations during what is locally a slow week in the restaurant business.

OpenTable, the online restaurant reservation service, recently unveiled a new feature designed to combat “no-shows” in reservations.

As part of a promotional program that OpenTable has called a “Show Up for Restaurants,” the service will begin tagging people who make reservations through OpenTable and then not use them as “potential no-shows”.

A second optional feature added by OpenTable is a “four strikes and you’re away” policy that suspends those who are chronic no-shows.

No-shows are a serious problem for most restaurants, resulting in empty seats on busy nights and in the process reducing the restaurant’s revenue and profitability.

OpenTable also provides its member restaurants with advice on creating credit card blocks and cancellation policies for reservations.

Delaney’s Market stores have time and labor saving suggestions for upcoming summer weekend barbecues.

They offer ready-to-cook selections such as teriyaki-marinated steak strips, dry-cured salmon, and Italian herb chicken breast, all sold by the pound and ready to grill.

Side dishes such as baked beans, tortellini antipasto salad, chilled strawberry soup, grilled vegetable kits, and an assortment of freshly made pies and desserts are also available.

Items must be ordered by 7:00 p.m. Wednesday for pickup on Friday or Saturday of that week.

The full menu and ordering information are available online at

The Blue Heron Restaurant in Sunderland has updated its menu, adding several new summer season dishes.

One is the giant scallop crudo, a “small plate” that includes sea scallops, red grapefruit, thinly sliced ​​cucumber, and seasonings, which executive chef Justin Mosher tweaks week to week.

“Crudo” is a term used to refer to raw seafood marinated in a seasoned liquid, typically citrus juice. The acidity of the juice “cooks” lightly and perfumes the seafood without masking its delicacy with heavier flavors.

You can find more information about the Blue Heron’s menu on their website,

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in the Hospitality and Culinary Arts program at Holyoke Community College and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached online at [email protected].

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