OPINION: Businesses open up about staff and supply shortages

With supplies and staff often in short supply, some area businesses facing these pandemic-based problems are sharing their worries with the public and asking for support.

Hector Samuel, the owner of Tap & Vine on Quinnipiac Street in Wallingford, posted on social media last week saying the eatery could close if he couldn’t hire a chef and a line cook soon. “As you all know, there are labor shortages in all areas of the economy,” he wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

it’s been reported that Samuel’s plea was heard and he’ll be able to hire and train new kitchen staff with only a brief closure.

He and other local restaurateurs told Record-Journal reporter Mary Ellen Godin that in addition to a shortage of bartenders, cooks and servers, supply shortages have further squeezed the industry. 

“It’s been a challenge for a long time and it’s pandemic-related,” said Michael Tiscia, owner of Michael’s Trattoria, in Wallingford.

Increasing wages, cutting back on hours, even shutting down temporarily are among the strategies eateries have tried. But influences have worked against them, such as extended unemployment benefits and childcare issues as schools went virtual.

Anthony Jacks Wood Fired Grill, on Center Street in Southington, kept its doors open and did a good takeout business, but co-owner Cheryl Moran said “it’s definitely something that affected us.”

The combination of challenges in the business will likely force Anthony Jacks to raise prices for the first time in four years, Moran said.

Michael Lariviere, owner of Westbrook Lobster, in Wallingford, also talked about trouble hiring staff. “But all guests realize what’s going on. They’re very patient and understanding,” he said.

In a story about furniture sales, Record-Journal reporter Jessica Simms spoke with store owners who told of similar struggles and how they’re coping.

 “It is taking a long time to order furniture so our customers are very patient and they understand that it’s not going to be a short period of time waiting for furniture anymore,” said Pamela DePaolo, one of the owners of DePaolo Furniture in Southington.

Wait times vary, but can be as long as five months or more. According to the Associated Press, the industry can’t find workers and is experiencing problems obtaining materials and truckers, too.

 “There’s a global shortage of foams and fibers and fabric,” DePaolo said. “Then you have your supply chain. The trucking companies are having trouble finding full-time drivers.”

Matt Lagana, owner of Liberty Lagana Furniture in Meriden, said he continued to order stock at the start of the pandemic and can often meet orders quickly.  

Still, he said it’s important that customers know early on if there will be a wait period. “It’s just being honest with your customers,” Lagana said. “If somebody comes in and they want to order something that’s on back order for three months, you’ve got to tell them that.”

These local businesses have been resourceful, tenacious and adaptable, weaving their way through the many recent crises that have impacted their ability to deliver.

Those are valuable qualities. Perhaps even more important is their willingness to be honest with customers, asking for patience and even asking for help in finding solutions.

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