MILWAUKEE — Labor shortages have impacted just about every industry, including the restaurant industry. Now, fewer workers could also mean a longer wait time at your favorite restaurant.
Arturo Napoles owns Riverfront Pizzeria Bar and Grill in Milwaukee. He says he can remember just three summer ago having a line of college students outside his restaurant waiting to apply for jobs. This summer, the picture is very different.
"We have now only seven servers on the staff. People in general are just not applying," Napoles said.
Napoles said he's put ads in local newspapers about job openings, but has had very few responses.
Despite vaccines and other protective measures and a slow return to normal, the labor shortage continues to hit restaurants, like Riverfront, hard.
"We don't have the capacity sometimes to provide the service that we want to," Napoles said.
Because of that, they can't seat customers at every table. Napoles said that's led to many customers getting angry when they see an empty table, but aren't seated right away.
"People come in and they see empty tables, they don't have a reservation, they show up on a Friday night or a Saturday nigh and it's extremely busy. They say you have a table there, it's empty. Yes, I have the table, but I don't have who is going to take care of you," he said. "People are just upset, people are mad, people are angry."
But tables left empty isn't just happening at Riverfront. The Wisconsin Restaurant Association said many restaurants across the state just don't have the staff available to serve all of their tables effectively and efficiently.
"It might be frustrating to customers to see that open table, but unless they have the staff to actually man it, they're not going to be (seated) there," Wisconsin Restaurant Association President and CEO Kristine Hillmer said.
Hillmer and Napoles said the best thing to do if you're planning on going out to eat, especially during busy times, is to make a reservation and be patient with the staff that is likely already stretched thin.