You have probably heard that the restaurant industry is in the midst of a huge upheaval this summer. To begin with, across the country, restaurateurs are seeing unprecedented demand. Here at Red Hen, we are seeing a 30% increase in our sales over 2019 figures. Coming on the heels of the difficult year we had last year, that should be cause for celebration. Unfortunately, the reality is it has instead resulted in a lot of stress on our entire team as we have tried to keep up with this demand. We are immensely proud of our crew we consider ourselves to be immeasurably blessed that nearly every member of our staff has stuck with us through the twists and turns of the last year and a half. This summer, we have been fortunate to welcome a few more talented, motivated folks to our team. The problem is that to keep pace with the increased demand we are seeing, we would need to hire another four or five individuals. In the last few months, we have seen very few responses to our job postings. A recent article in Time magazine goes into some detail about these trends. It turns out that the very same thing is happening across the country: https://time.com/6076710/restaurants-labor-shortage/
It’s important to point out that none of our staff receive tipped wages. In fact, from day one, we have always donated every penny that goes in the “tip” jar. We believe in providing fair wages. We believe that the dynamic that is created when servers are motivated by tips is antithetical to the way we want to do business. Additionally, our counter staff, as with all of our full-time employees, receive benefits such as health care, a retirement plan, paid vacation, disability insurance, free massages, and food discounts. We have always strived to provide real jobs that allow people to make a career out of working in the food industry, should they choose to do so.
Sadly, it’s not unusual these days to find customers who do not seem to understand the issues we are facing with labor supply and soaring demand. For generations, the restaurant industry has offered diners a myriad of options ranging from fast food, local diners, fine dining and, of course, cafes and bakeries. We have all grown up with the expectation that, across the country, in towns of any size, you can walk into an eatery just about any day of the week and be served a decent meal for a fair price. Think about that. Very few of us employ domestic help in our homes, yet we are all accustomed to the notion that there will always be someone at the eatery down the street ready to cook us a decent meal and serve it to us with a smile. That expectation has sometimes turned to disappointment in these last few months as wait times have increased, prices have gone up, hours have been reduced, and perhaps the smiles have faded as the stress of keeping up with demand has worn on those trying to meet that demand.
Faced with all of this, we are taking a hard look at how to best preserve our business’s most important resource: the people that make this place run ’round the clock. Our first steps in this direction are being taken next week. Starting on August 8th, we will be closing our cafe every day at 3:30 p.m. rather than 5:00 p.m. After August 22nd, our creemee window will be open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. We think this is the best allocation of our labor resources at this time. Please understand that we are doing everything we can to balance great service and staff sanity. We are immensely grateful for your support and patience as we work through this.
After having to take a brief pause to keep everyone safe, we are getting back to baking. Beginning on Tuesday, January 26th., you will find our bread in stores again.
On this first day back, you won’t see baguettes, but you will find five varieties on the shelves. Over the next four days, our selection will be increasing. By the end of the week, we expect to be back to full baking capacity. Our goal is to open the cafe on Thursday. More updates to follow...
Thank you to everyone for the support over the last few days. You mean the world to us!