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Delaware's restaurants still dealing with massive staffing shortages

Delaware Public Media

Almost 90 percent of Delaware restaurants are short on staff, according to a survey from the Delaware Restaurant Association.


Gone to your favorite restaurant to find it’s now closed on Mondays? That’s becoming more common in the First State, as many owners close on certain days give overworked staff a reprieve. 


The Delaware Restaurant Association found almost 80 percent of restaurants have had to change their hours because they're short on staff.


Delaware Restaurant Association president Carrie Leishman says like many others during lockdown, restaurant staff sought jobs with more stability.


“You know, you’re gonna have a lot of people that love the restaurant industry but they feel they should have left for quote unquote more professional jobs in cubicles — and they’re gonna realize they don’t like it,” Leishman said. “They’re not going to make the money they’re used to in this industry, and they’re not going to have those flexible jobs that they’re used to. So we think they’ll come back, but they’ll come back slowly.”


Current staff shortages mean some restaurants, such as Harry’s Savoy Grill in Brandywine Hundred shut down one day a week, to give the remaining staff a needed break.


Owner Xavier Teixido says restaurants are at the whims of employees now; they need to ensure their working environment is enjoyable and wages remain competitive to retain staff.


“We can’t do what we do without team members to do it,” said Teixido. “So these things sort of have been turned upside down, right? What do we need to provide in terms of wages or incentives for people to continue to work?”


Teixido owns Harry’s Savoy Grill and Kid Shelleen’s in Wilmington. He’s noticed those wages and incentives are attracting new employees that would have never left their jobs for one at a restaurant.


And Teixido and the Delaware Restaurant Association are confident some of their lost workforce will come back, but it could take over a year. 


Restaurants are also relying on patrons’ patience as they manage staff and inflation of ingredient prices. How long that patience will last remains uncertain.


Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.