Having to close because there’s not enough staff is “absolutely” tiring,” Sherill said. “I don’t know any restaurant or small business owner who are not (tired of the shortage).”
Monica Nenni, co-owner of Bandanas Italian Restaurant in Middletown, said they never had to make a decision to close or change their hours due to staffing shortages.
“Rather, we limited our seating and sometimes had to suspend carryout orders in an effort not to overwhelm our staff and disappoint our customers,” she said. “We have been very lucky that our core employees have been willing to take on more responsibility and work overtime to make up for the shortages, the credit really goes to them.”
The excitement of spring follows encouraging news from the most recent Ohio Restaurant Association Business Impact Poll results.
In January, operators said 49% of their restaurants were operating with normal hours, but that number increased in February when 58% of restaurants said they’d operate at normal hours over the next month.
“As sunnier days and better weather approach, we are hopeful this upward trend will surge in the coming months,” according to the report.
The ORA is looking ahead “with optimism” as restaurants continue to face a labor shortage and rising food costs compared to a year ago. Forty-one percent of survey respondents report an 11% to 20% increase in food costs, and overall, the industry is facing 40-year highs in annual increases.
“For an industry with profit margins between 3% and 6%, soaring labor and food costs create a daily struggle for operators, so please be understanding if you see menu prices increasing,” according to the report.
Some restaurants don’t open every day of the week because of staffing shortages.
Tano Bistro, 150 Riverfront Plaza in Hamilton, is closed Sundays and Mondays. General manager Tyler McCleary said he’d love to have his restaurant open seven days a week, but can’t.
“We want to make sure they’re not overworked, they’re happy, that they’re heard and they’re really enjoying themselves,” said McCleary. “I don’t want to talk about opening on six and seven days if the five days we are open isn’t going 100 percent. We’ve been very intentional on adding quality people and expanding with the growth of our staff. I don’t want to stretch them too thin.”
But having restaurants, as well as bars, are important to a community, McCleary said, whose also a founding member of the Hamilton Amusement and Hospitality Association. While personally he’s made connections in the hospitality industry he’d never had made in any other industry, he said, restaurants and bars are often a person’s “third place.”
“People leaned on restaurants during the pandemic, which is why they are an important part of the community,” he said. “All your restaurants are just the third place to gather to have a good time and take a load off.”