Crowds of restaurants expected for Mother’s Day in Volusia, Flagler
Large crowds are expected to visit area restaurants again on Mother’s Day Sunday, by far the biggest dining day of the year.
But this welcome influx of patrons to the mother of all dining opportunities will also strain the resources of many establishments that still struggle to hire enough workers to fully staff the kitchens and dining rooms in the middle. of the coronavirus pandemic.
For restaurateurs in Volusia and Flagler counties, the traditional Mother’s Day meal rush will magnify the reality that has emerged as the country’s economy began to rebound from the vaccine rollout and downsizing. pandemic restrictions: there are many customers, but often a shortage of workers to serve them.
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“My restaurants, in particular, and I think most restaurants in the area are in the same position,” said Kevin Wakefield, owner of Grind Gastropub & Kona Tiki Bar, 31 Supper Club and Ormond Garage Brewing. on Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach. “We have record sales figures and we manage them with a fraction of the staff we usually have. We’re at 60-70% of what our staffing would normally be. “
Wakefield expects to be particularly busy on Mother’s Day.
His prediction is confirmed by national data from industry research firm OpenTable which shows restaurant reservations for Mother’s Day are up 64% from 2019.
The survey shows that one in three Americans have not held an extended family reunion for more than a year due to the pandemic.
“Based on our data, Mother’s Day 2021 is shaping up to be the first holiday where many families will celebrate and dine together – an experience diners look forward to after more than a year of restrictions,” Debby said. Soo, CEO of OpenTable. in a press release.
Grind Gastropub will be serving its usual bottomless Sunday brunch buffet, a scenario that will ease the burden on the kitchen, bus staff and waiters who have worked overtime to keep the restaurant going, he said.
“Over the past month, we’ve tried a number of different things to overcome this,” Wakefield said. “We reduced our menu for a while and closed our kitchen an hour early each evening. It helps a bit.
“Otherwise, we maintain a normal schedule, but it was very difficult for the staff,” he said. “Mother’s Day will be a very busy day for us. It takes the pressure off because we are doing the buffet, but certainly the crew will be tired at the end of the week. But we still have to turn around and prepare for the next week as there is no sign that things are slowing down for the summer.
Restaurant and hospitality workers have been slow to return to work after being fired or laid off at the height of the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, and it’s a challenge related to a combination of factors that include extended unemployment benefits and federal stimulus payments linked to the impact of the pandemic as well as wages that face increasing competition from new employers in the market, said Costa Magoulas, dean of the College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College.
On Mother’s Day, the impact of this labor shortage will be a big part of restaurant managers’ readiness, he said.
“Mother’s Day is the biggest catering day of the year,” Magoulas said. “It overshadows absolutely everything else. The business is there, but we just don’t have the people (the workers).
“I don’t think that will change drastically right away,” he said. “It may only be September that we will see some normalcy in the labor market. It is affected by government subsidies. Until that changes, they (the unemployed) have no reason. to return to work. “
In March, President Biden signed the latest Congressional pandemic-fueled economic stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The new law extends federal unemployment programs until September 6 and adds new relief for laid-off workers and employers in the form of tax exemptions, credits and new subsidies.
In Florida, eligible people can receive $ 275 in weekly state unemployment benefits coupled with $ 300 in federal assistance. The state also waived the job search requirement as part of the unemployment process during the pandemic, a requirement Gov. Ron DeSantis said this week he intended to reinstate.
Crabby Joe’s Deck & Grill serves breakfast again
Meanwhile, staffing issues will lead to noticeable changes at some restaurants for Mother’s Day dinners.
Crabby Joe’s Deck & Grill, the popular oceanfront eatery on Sunglow Pier in Daytona Beach Shores, is open for breakfast again after recently cutting its hours. But the restaurant has also limited its menu, eliminating omelets from the range to increase efficiency in a kitchen that is still understaffed, said Luke Zona, general manager.
“We have a breakfast bowl that’s a lot quicker to prepare,” Zona said. “If you make eight omelets, that takes the whole grill and you can get that order at a table. So we removed this from the menu just to improve speed. “
The restaurant is expecting a lot of customers on Sunday, Zona said.
“Mother’s Day is a big deal for breakfast and lunch,” he said. “Families will be absent and I expect us to be busy.”
The outlook is also optimistic at the newly opened SoNapa Grille in Ormond Beach, which will open three hours earlier at 1 p.m. Sunday to serve diners on its first Mother’s Day, said Joe Bates, associate manager of the restaurant. The restaurant has a special Mother’s Day menu that includes bar and a small filet, he said.
“We’re almost full for this lunch time and for the evening,” Bates said. “We are at about 75% of reservations last night. We are delighted with it. “
After struggling to fill kitchen positions during its opening weeks in March, the restaurant is essentially fully staffed, Bates said.
“The first six weeks we were definitely dealing more with staffing, but we got through it,” he said. “It took us about nine weeks to be fully staffed and for this team to settle in.”
Likewise, staffing has rebounded at Charlie Horse Restaurant, a family-run establishment across from Andy Romano Park on National Highway A1A in Ormond Beach, said Lori Dupree, general manager.
“We just hired a server and a host,” Dupree said. “Most of our cooks came back and we added another one. So we are fine.
The restaurant expects many Mother’s Day patrons to be interested in eating on crab legs, her signature menu item, she said. A lingering impact of the pandemic is that shipments of this treat have been more difficult to secure, she said.
“The crab market is like the housing market,” she says. “There is no inventory. We even have a hard time getting it. They just don’t have the staff in the processing plants to get it processed and shipped to where it has to cross the United States.
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In Flagler County, the Golden Lion Café in Flagler Beach will have a special Mother’s Day menu featuring fire-grilled Baja Lobster Tail, owner Christopher Marlow said.
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“We expect this to be a busy Mother’s Day,” he said.
The restaurant represents about 80% of its regular workforce, but business has been great, Marlow said.
“There are probably fewer people applying for jobs than ever before,” he said. “We’re in the same boat as everyone else, but we’re thankful that our staff do such a wonderful job keeping the doors open and keeping us as busy as we are.”
Eventually, as the country continues to emerge from the pandemic, more workers will return, said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.
“It becomes clearer when these additional revenue streams expire and some of the old rules are re-imposed,” Snaith said. “Most of these workers know that they will eventually be able to find a job. It’s not like I don’t come home now, there will never be any jobs.