‘Soaring’: Square businesses grapple with staff shortages | New


Since students returned to campus, long lines, reduced hours, and staff shortages have plagued Harvard Square restaurants, reflecting broader restaurant industry trends caused by the pandemic.

Amid a nationwide shortage of restaurant workers, businesses in Harvard Square have been inundated with customers, forcing stores to cut hours and halt online orders as queues stretch out of doors. their doors.

Help Wanted signs adorn Harvard Square storefronts, including Black Sheep Bagel Cafe, Clover Food Lab, Dig, The Hourly Oyster House, Insomnia Cookies, Kung Fu Tea, Playa Bowls, Russell House Tavern, Tatte Bakery & Cafe and Topdrawer .

Despite posting about 1 million job vacancies in March, the U.S. restaurant industry had 1.7 million fewer jobs filled in May than before the pandemic, according to the Washington Post.

The owner of Mr Bartley’s Burger Cottage, Joshua S. Huggard, said he was struggling to hire new employees. After unsuccessful job offers on Indeed.com, he said he resorted to dating.

“The biggest problem with understaffing is that you don’t want to lose the integrity of your brand and compromise on service and quality. It can be difficult at times, especially with impatient guests entering, ”said Huggard.

Some of Harvard Square’s longest queues over the past month have beset Harvard Square’s popular Tatte Bakery & Cafe restaurant.

Tatte spokeswoman Diana C. Pisciotta wrote in an email that the store has significantly reduced its hours of operation – the cafe now closes at 4 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. – to let its managers ” additional time for recruitment, integration and training ”.

“The restaurant industry, like many others, is facing a difficult climb: labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, rising costs and Covid,” she wrote. .

Annina C. Kennedy-Yoon ’20, a barista at Darwin’s Ltd. who is involved in the coffee chain employee unionization efforts, said staff turnover was a persistent challenge at Darwin’s.

“There’s a huge turnover in the food service industry which makes it really tough,” she said. “We keep recruiting new people who will maybe stay with us for a month, and so you train them for say a week and a half, and they work until the end of the month, and then we have to find a new person. “

Kennedy-Yoon added that Darwin is “constantly short of staff”.

“It’s hard to be in a position where every minute that you’re on time, you’re constantly going, going, going,” she said.

Jonathan F. Belton, Boston District Manager at Topdrawer, a “lifestyle accessories” store in Harvard Square, said that although the company has also experienced staff shortages, he has been able to keep some employees on board by giving priority to their safety.

“What kept me on staff this year was to create a safe environment for everyone, an environment where people felt comfortable coming to work and being safe in Covid conditions,” he said. -he declares.

A sign advertising job openings is displayed on the window of JP Licks, an ice cream shop in Harvard Square, amid a nationwide shortage of restaurant workers. By Truong L. Nguyen

Some students said they noticed understaffing and long wait times as they tried to grab a bite to eat off campus.

The long lines at Tatte discouraged Katherin T. Vasquez Sanchez ’25 from frequenting the establishment.

“Usually I love going there, but I stopped going because the lines were so long and I have classes in the morning,” she said. “I would say the wait time is probably 20 minutes to half an hour.”

Nahla C. Owens ’25 said she noticed companies like Insomnia Cookies and Kung Fu Tea – both of which are looking for new employees – frequently overflowing with customers in the evenings.

“One person is responsible for taking people’s orders, making ice cream and taking cookies,” she said of Insomnia.

Owens said she sympathizes with overworked employees who struggle to meet customer demands.

“It’s sad to come in and see only one or two of the staff, especially at Kung Fu Tea, having a hard time making drinks, especially when there is a line outside the door. students, ”Owens added. “I can imagine it could be stressful for them.”

– Editor Tracy Jiang can be contacted at tracy.jiang@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @_tracyjiang_.

– Editor Davin W. Shi can be contacted at davin.shi@thecrimson.com.

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