This story was first published on May 27th. With the emergence of the Delta Variant, not a lot has changed for the hospitality industry in the CSRA.
On Tuesday morning the Starbucks Coffee Shop on Washington Road at I-20 CLOSED because there was not enough staff to service guests. They re-opened Wednesday morning after locating workers.
On the same day, one of the Gary’s Hamburgers had to close at 3 pm—the stories go on and on.
As part of our weekly strategic alliance with AU’s Hull College of Business, we asked associate professor Marsha Loda PhD to share her thoughts on the crisis.
The hospitality industry is experiencing a double whammy. It was one of the hardest-hit segments of the economy during the COVID-19 shutdown. With coronavirus restrictions being lifted across Georgia, one would assume restaurants and hotels are cheering. In reality, it is more akin to a good news/bad news story. The good news is businesses can serve at full capacity. The bad news is there are not enough servers.
The reality hit home in a social media post from upstart Back Paddle Brewing in Burke County on May 9. While the post shared food specials for Mother’s Day, owner Kyle McCloud asked for patrons’ patience at his business or elsewhere. “Things might take a bit longer, but I can assure you, staffs are working hard to provide great food and service.” Karen Bremer, the president of the Georgia Restaurant Association agreed, saying many establishments are on the verge of being overwhelmed. She estimates that approximately 4,000 restaurants across the state have closed due to the pandemic.
The hospitality industry in April showed an unemployment rate of 10.8%, second only to mining and oil and gas extraction. On May 21, the job site Indeed.com had 547 Augusta job listings just for the food and beverage industry. There was encouraging news given the Georgia jobless claims number for the week of May 24 was down from the previous week.
While restaurants need our patience, we as a society also need restaurants. Aside from churches and recreational facilities, restaurants are one of our society’s few community gathering places. They are where we laugh with friends or celebrate life’s occasions. Sociological research points to the important role restaurants play in the maintenance of social connections and the building of richer social experiences.
How can you help during this pivotal period? Locally owned restaurants are most at risk. Think for a moment how you might feel if your favorite local places were added to the list of closures. Then, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, gather your friends or valued clients, and go out to eat! Don’t insist on the pre-pandemic happy hour specials just yet, be patient with service, and tip generously. Repeat weekly. You will be glad you did. Cheers!
Marsha Loda became assistant professor in the Hull College of Business in 2007. She is the former co-owner of an adPR agency in Memphis, Tennessee, and formerly directed a staff of 42 with an annual marketing budget of $28 Million for the largest tourism business in North Carolina.