National worker shortage continues to impact restaurants in Connecticut

Middlesex

MIDDLEFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — The national worker shortage continues to impact restaurants in Connecticut. Some have cut back their hours or have temporarily closed down because they don’t have enough staff.

“It’s reality, there’s no way around it,” said Rob Fralick, owner and partner of the Blackbird Tavern in Middlefield. “Every restaurant is short-staffed right now.”

The Blackbird Tavern is now closed on Sundays until further notice because of the labor shortage.

“We would rather try to maintain the quality and condense our hours to a day less, which we certainly don’t want to do,” said Fralick. “There [are] a lot of people who come on Sundays and that’s a day they like to come. We’re very disappointed we can’t provide that.”

Fralick said his team has worked so hard over the last year and a half.

“I can’t ask them for anymore,” Fralick told News 8. “I can’t stretch them too far. They’re great.”

They, like many other restaurants, are asking for continued patience as they navigate this challenging time.

“So many of our customers are very patient and kind and understanding, so they get it,” said Pam Durfee, who works at Blackbird Tavern. “We’re all getting through it together.”

Customers News 8 spoke with said that’s more important than ever.

“Without your support, they’re not going to stay alive and when you want to go out to eat, they won’t be there,” said Joann Preece, who frequents Blackbird Tavern.

Businesses everywhere are making the push to fill jobs, just as millions of people are losing additional unemployment benefits. Owners are waiting to see if this drives people to these open positions. Concerns about the pandemic as well as issues with childcare still loom, contributing to this labor shortage.

“All areas play a role and unfortunately, when you add them all together, it makes the crisis we’re in,” said Scott Dolch, Executive Director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association.

Dolch said they’re actively looking for solutions to address all facets of this.

“We have to be more creative,” said Dolch. “We have to try to help these restaurants as best as we can to encourage people to get back to work.”

If you’ve been interested in joining the restaurant industry, Dolch said now is the time. Restaurants are actively hiring. 

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