The state’s restaurants that survived the COVID-19 pandemic still face challenges in the months ahead, including the virus’s delta variant and worker shortage, according to the Connecticut Restaurant Association’s executive director.
Scott Dolch, a recent guest on the National Restaurant Association’s podcast “Order Up,” said the industry’s workforce in Connecticut – according to June numbers – is nearly 30,000 jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic.
Restaurants “have the demand but how are they trying to manage the demand at a 50 or 60, 65 percent staffing? It’s so hard,” Dolch said. He added that he hopes this month’s expiration of extra pandemic-related benefits will help bring workers back. He discussed how the association helps support restaurants including hosting webinars and running a jobs board.
He said 1 in 3 Americans have had some experience in the industry at some point, whether it leads to a career, or is someone’s first job.
“It teaches you a lot about adversity, dealing with people, working on a team – all those things that you can take with you in life,” Dolch said.
Dolch estimated that Connecticut lost around 600 restaurants since the pandemic began, adding that the majority of that number are smaller, independent restaurants. Restaurants that managed to survive did so by having to adjust with outdoor dining and more of a focus on takeout.
“We are in a better place than back in fall. We have a vaccine, We lead the country in vaccinations pretty much,” Dolch said, crediting Gov. Ned Lamont for advocating people getting vaccinations. He also discussed the Association’s Restaurant Relief Fund to help struggling restaurants.
Once the state gets through the next few months, Dolch said he hopes the industry can then really start to focus on recovery.
To listen to the podcast in full, click below.