Restaurant servers are still struggling as the pandemic continues


Photo by Haley Clark-Reporter

Lure Fish House in Camarillo is operating at 50 percent capacity with both indoor and outdoor seating.

Haley Clark, Reporter

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the restaurant industry, as many challenges remain after indoor dining has resumed throughout Ventura County. Outside of frontline healthcare workers, those in the restaurant industry have seen the consequences resulting from the pandemic.

For some, going out to eat may feel different than it used to. You may find yourself waiting a long time for a table and service might seem slow. If you look around, you may see the stressed out restaurant staff scrambling around trying to fulfill their duties.

This is because restaurants across California are severely understaffed and are doing the best they can to make it through each day.

Ventura County resident Dan Grant has worked in the restaurant industry for 30 years. Lure Fish House in Camarillo, where he is currently employed at had exclusively offered take-out for months.

“Much of my job became speed based as opposed to providing hands-on, in-house dining experiences,” Grant said. 

When exclusive outdoor dining was permitted, servers had to work outdoors in the heat of the summer without air conditioning. 

“The average server at my restaurant was walking eight to 10 miles in a five hour shift, all while carrying heavy plates and trays of beverages, bussing tables, and withstanding the hot summer sun,” Grant said. 

With vaccines rolling out, COVID-19 protocols have loosened, allowing restaurants to resume in-person dining and operate at a greater capacity with both indoor and outdoor seating. 

I have worked at the same restaurant for over four years, and we are busier now than we ever were pre-pandemic. No matter what day of the week it is, I come into work 40 minutes before we open and there are people waiting outside for a table. 

The problem is, a significant amount of employees left when the pandemic first happened, and a majority of them have not returned. There are not nearly enough employees to serve the many guests that come in to dine with us every day. We are severely understaffed. 

According to statistics published on Business Insider’s website, 942,000 people were unemployed in June 2021 because they voluntarily quit. With the unemployment and stimulus benefits offered because of the pandemic, people are now able to stay at home and make around the same amount of money they were making while they were employed. 

“The intentions of the government were good, but the implementation was not equitable as it often rewarded people for not working,” Grant said. “Restaurants were forced to hire new employees, many of whom had not worked in a restaurant before. This certainly created new challenges to providing quality products in a timely manner.”  

Due to the consequences of COVID-19, I have to balance many different positions rather than just focusing on serving my tables. Normally, we will only have one busser on, which means it takes a lot of time for tables to get cleaned off and sanitized. 

According to the website for the Ventura County Star, the mask mandate will continue for at least another month.

I find myself constantly having to ask people to put on a mask as they’re navigating tables around the restaurant. Some people are respectful and compliant, while others are defiant and try to argue with me. It’s exhausting and a job in itself.

By choosing to work in the middle of a pandemic, I am jeopardizing my health. That is a risk I am willing to take because I enjoy being a server and creating an outstanding dining experience for those in my community. Although, I wish some people understood the full extent of  what restaurants are going through, that we are trying our absolute best.

It’s important for people to realize even though many restrictions have been lifted, restaurants and their employees are still suffering.

Despite the inconsistencies of the job,  one thing that has remained constant is the relationship I have with my coworkers. Each of us are going through the exact same thing, and we can confide in each other. I could not get through the long and draining hours without their support. We’re one big family. 

“While it may appear that things are mostly ‘back to normal,’ they are far from that. Maybe there is a ‘new normal,’ which is a lot different for everyone,” Grant said. “Patience and generosity would be what I would ask of customers who probably have no idea how challenging the jobs of restaurant employees still are.”