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Utah restaurants struggle with staffing as they prepare to receive dine-in customers

Posted at 11:19 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 13:19:47-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — When Utah restaurants are allowed to serve sit-down diners Friday, the restrictions required to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are also expected to reduce the number of restaurant employees.

For several decades, Carl’s Cafe buzzed with customers.

“These guys are super friendly to me. It’s awesome,” said Greg Martinez, customer for 30 years.

With seating capacity for 40, the small restaurant often had a line out the door.

“It’s been hard. We’ve been through some hard things and this has been one of the more emotionally hard things that’s really hit us hard,” said owner Lisa Parker, holding back tears.

COVID-19 took away 75 percent of their sales.

Wearing masks and gloves on Wednesday, the staff prepared for dine-in customers to come back.

Three employees have been furloughed. The four that are left have drastically reduced hours.

“We just kept open to pay what bills we could,” said Lauren Dimmitt.

An estimated half of all restaurant employees will not have a job to come back to, even when they reopen to sit-down dining, according to Harver. The national recruitment platform found eateries will need to reduce staff by 44-54% of what they were before COVID-19. This is due to keeping six feet between tables and reducing customer capacity.

“We are working with what we have now, with just the four tables and the rest will come later,” said Parker.

She said staff will be reduced by a one or two servers each shift.

When they open Friday, fewer than 20 customers can dine at a time. But Parker is thankful because that’s more than they can right now.

“It’s been horrible,” Parker said. "But you know what? We are open and that’s the best part about it. Our customers are still coming to see us and that’s really the amazing thing.”