How the restaurant industry is working through the pandemic

Stella Edwards, Geyser staff writer

To say the least, the pandemic has taken quite the toll on the food and beverage industry, and they have been struggling to get by ever since. Now, with the increase in demand from the consumer, local businesses have had a difficult time meeting it, especially due to understaffing.
Spencer Purkett, Neptunes Taphouse and Eatery General manager, said the biggest struggle in the restaurant industry has been the staffing, Purkett said “The appeal to work for this industry during these times has gone way down due to the fear of illness as well as the increase of disrespect from guests,” he said.
Many high school students work at Neptune’s, and Purkett said, “the high schoolers were hit hard with the close contact cases because of being together at school, but they were also a huge help to the survival of the restaurant and are always willing to help out when and where we need them..”
Staffing shortages have increased local restaurants’ dependence on high school students to cover shifts those adults once filled. In a recent survey given to Park High students, 50% of respondents are currently employed.
Senior Megan Nelson, who works part time at Neptunes, expressed what it is like all while being in school and during the pandemic. Nelson said that the biggest struggle is “Definitely the wages, with the restaurants being so slow, I don’t get paid as much.” She was also asked how she managed working while going to school, Megan says “I work over the weekends when I’m in sports, and during that offseason I will work the weekends as well with afterschool.”
Owner of The Soup Bar, Hans Friedmann, has also expressed the obstacles he and his business are facing. Friedmann said, “We believe there is a serious lack of understanding of the struggles that the service industry is going through.” He cited a lack of applicants for open positions as well as monetary losses due to perishable products throughout the “constantly changing pandemic dynamics,” he explained. These dynamics, he said, have led to a “vicious cycle leading to burn out amongst all the individuals who are trying to stay around for the community and push through this while enduring constant new challenges like never before,” Friedmann said.

Ethan Wilson works the sushi line at Neptune’s Taphouse & Eatery. Many Park High students work at the restaurant, which was busy and understaffed during the summer months but has recently hit a slower winter season. (Stella Edwards)