EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With Michigan’s broadest pandemic restrictions over, many are looking at the Fourth of July weekend as one of the first real chances to get out and unwind.
“Takeout has been extremely busy because some are still not wanting to go quite the full extent toward their dining in,” Rob Lutz of Big Bob’s Pizza in East Grand Rapids said Friday. “Others are ready to be back in action: They want to sit at tables, they want to have a beer served to them by a server without a mask on.”
Restaurants are looking forward to larger crowds and the money that comes with them, but they are also asking for something from their customers: patience.
The problem is that restaurants are having a tough time finding workers. So even while they want your business, they may not be able to serve you as quickly as you’re used to.
Not everybody has been understanding.
“You got some goods, some bads, some ugly. It’s how it always has been. The pandemic has brought out some that you love to see back, some that you’re OK that have been in hiding for a while,” Lutz said. “I think we’re all working a lot of hours. We’re all picking up different shifts, different slack because all of our positions, we’re looking for more people.”
The servers at Carolina Lowcountry Kitchen across the street from Big Bob’s have been wearing T-shirts are reminding customers that they’re short-staffed.
“Please be patient, there’s like 3 of us,” the shirts say.
“The shirts were a little bit of a gag, but also a play on the reality of what’s going on in the world at the moment,” Brienne Postema of Carolina said. “One of our staff members made the shirts for the crew and the crew just loved them. It was really sweet and it was a fun way to put our message out to say (that) we love you all, we want you here, we really want you here, but a little bit of grace and little bit of patience goes a long way for everybody.
“So we’re hoping people come in, but just trying to make sure everybody’s on the same page,” she continued.
Most customers are on that page, seeing that staffing levels haven’t rebounded with the reopening.
“It’s slower,” restaurant patron Glenn LeMieux acknowledged, “But you’ve got to give a little, right? Especially now, we’re trying to be as local as we can. You’ve just got to be aware of how people are feeling. Everybody’s stretched.”
Neither Big Bob’s nor Carolina are back at 100% capacity, even though the state has allowed it, saying they’re trying to avoid unnecessary frustration.
“We’re thankful for the business and we want to make sure we provide a great experience when people do come in and are willing to spend their money because we know there’s a lot of other places they can choose to do food, drink…” Lutz said.
He and Postema said they are bringing on more staff, but it takes time to train new workers. So for now, especially on a busy holiday weekend, they’re asking for some grace.
“A little forgiveness on all ends,” Postema said. “We’re working really hard.”