Lineups, staff shortages and servers in tears. The road to normal in the service industry has been a bumpy one since the lockdown restrictions began to loosen.
In a disturbing trend, several businesses in South Muskoka have been pleading with the public to show more civility and compassion to their staff.
In Gravenhurst, the Oar restaurant put out a statement last week asking for their customers to show more respect to staff.
“Are more people being unpleasant? Yes,” says Robbie Irvine, the owner of the Oar. “I can’t tell you how much it hurts to know that members of my team were treated badly. I think I cried all day.”
Irvine said those working 50 hour weeks in the industry are committed to what they do and are trying to catch up on wages they lost over the last 18 months.
“99.9 percent of our customers are incredibly kind and generous…but sometimes people come to us with certain moods or experiences that carry over. If you’re a 17-year-old host and a 65-year-old man decides to be a (jerk), that’s not acceptable,” she says. “So please, please be kind and be patient. We won’t hesitate to ask anyone who can’t be these things to leave.”
Irvine says she can understand the public frustration, as there are lineups and waits for almost everything now.
Staff shortages have affected virtually every industry and seem to have slammed the service industry particularly hard this summer. Many restaurants in South Muskoka have been forced to trim their hours due to staff shortages, and several remained closed entirely.
While some have cited CERB and government financial supports as one potential reason for the staffing shortage, Irvine isn’t buying it.
“I think that covid exposed a number of weaknesses in the system,” she says. “There are fewer people in the workforce now and competition for those workers is fierce.”
Irvine says that the worse staff are treated, the more likely they are to leave their jobs. Ironically, that will only lead to more staff shortages and longer waits for customers.
In Bracebridge, Momma Bear’s Ice Cream and Sweats issued a similar statement to the Oar via social media:
“You are entitled to your rights. You DO NOT however, have ANY right to harass, abuse or threaten my staff,” reads the post. “My staff are all high school students but for 2 university students. In most cases this is their first job experience. If you are not happy with our company policies. Please take your business elsewhere.”
On the flip side, Irvine says the show of support from the community after she issued her statement was tremendous. The day after it went out, she arrived at the restaurant to find cookies, flowers and donuts. Since then people have been reaching out and stopping by to show their support.
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