Relax. We’re doing the best we can.

July 29, 2021

For the last 10 summers, we here at Steppin’ Up To The Plate’s sprawling high-rise office complex (and mall) have looked forward to providing for your dining, sipping and even dancing pleasure. But this season is somewhat bittersweet. Yes, our restaurants have been graciously permitted to open at full capacity, but recent unemployment policies are keeping many potential employees at home. It’s no secret that in some cases they’re actually being given more taxpayer money to NOT work than they could ever make by going to work. So the lifting of restrictions is a double-edged sword: our eateries can be open, but many are still forced to restrict their hours and/or days open simply because qualified employees are, at least temporarily, almost impossible to find.

The silver lining around this otherwise dark cloud is that our locals and vacationers have … well, stepped up the plate … to support our eateries here at the beach. While the vast majority of restaurant patrons understand that short-staffing naturally leads to longer waits and occasionally limited seating, there is an entitled element out there that has no patience for what they (incorrectly) perceive to be a personal attack on them. For whatever reasons, they are incapable of understanding that, in many cases, the people about whom they are complaining actually “chose” to come to work. 

If my 16 years following, writing and talking about our restaurants has taught me anything, it’s that a surprising number of food-service people here at the beach have an exceptional work ethic.

Probably the most frustrating part of this false entitlement is that some of these malcontents take to the internet – particularly Yelp - to vent their issues. And hardworking restaurant owners and employees become the victims of their self-righteous outrage. As if restauranting isn’t hard enough without these laptop warriors attacking local businesses from the anonymity of their living rooms.

The issues here are real, and every day I learn more about how our restaurants are coping with this problem. Owners are running deliveries. Executive chefs are bringing takeout to waiting cars. Servers, bartenders, managers and kitchen staff are working double – even triple – shifts. Keep in mind they might actually make a few more bucks collecting unemployment from their couches, but instead they come to work. Why? Because food service has always had a certain magnetism for people who like to see their guests enjoying themselves.

This season’s record crowds on Coastal Highway, in the downtown areas and in the majority of our restaurants are testament to how much people still like going out to eat, drink and enjoy themselves. Keep doing that! But with one caveat: plan your visit to allow a few more minutes for your beleaguered servers, bussers, food runners, managers and kitchen staff to make sure you have the best dining experience possible.

A recently discovered silver lining (around the aforementioned dark cloud) is that many states throughout the country are wisely choosing to end the additional unemployment earlier than planned. They’ve seen the hardships it has caused, and as a result, business is booming there. We can only hope that other states follow suit.

Restaurants are run by humans. And humans, by definition, aren’t perfect. But one of the very first things I wrote 16 years ago when I started still applies today: “Only the strong survive.” Never has that been truer than now.

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