Restaurants are gearing up for a tough holiday season – San Bernardino Sun

As the holidays approach, restaurant chains seem ready to celebrate, rolling out their seasonal menus and offerings.

But the restaurant industry, still shaken by the new coronavirus, faces major end-of-year challenges, experts say.

“The customers are there and see that their favorite restaurant is busy, and they assume that everything is going well with the restaurants. And while we love to see restaurants bustling, at the end of the day the industry is still suffering, ”said Mike Whatley, vice president of state affairs and grassroots advocacy for the National Restaurant Association.

Their woes stem from the novel coronavirus in the form of staff shortages and supply chain disruptions.

Restaurants are trying a variety of coping strategies, from reducing their opening hours and closing on certain days to reducing the capacity of their dining rooms, which Whatley called in a phone interview leaving money on the table.

Javier Vasquez, CEO and president of Corona-based fast food chain Miguel’s Jr., briefly closed dining rooms at two of its restaurants, in Redlands and Tustin, but said their staff wanted to reopen.

Now he and the rest of his management team work shifts in his kitchens to avoid a drop in customer service.

“We’re just trying to give the team a bit of a break,” he said.

When he is in restaurants, Vasquez works at the preparation station. Son of the chain’s founders, he has worked in the restaurant business since he was young but says he’s rusty.

“If I had to wrap burritos, that would be bad. But if I can support you by placing orders, preparing, making hot sauce, that’s support. We support the team, let them focus on the customer and help them do their job better.

Miguel’s Jr. will be serving California chili and pork tamales starting November 30. (Photo courtesy of Miguel’s Jr.)

Vasquez briefly closed two dining halls, in Redlands and Tustin, to reduce staff stress. He also considered not adding his traditional holiday dishes, tamales and pozole, to the menu this year, but decided to go for them. They will be on the menu from Nov. 30 to Dec. 30. 31.

Miguel Jr. usually gets a bump in business over the holidays, Vasquez said, and he’s hoping this year will be the same. But he hopes to continue helping in restaurants until December.

“There is a sense of hopelessness in the industry that I have never seen before. I’m just trying to get through the year.

Several other chains are moving forward with holiday menu items, including Del Taco and El Pollo Loco, which also serve tamales.

But 75 percent of restaurants have shortened their menus because they can’t get the ingredients they need, according to Whatley.

The supply chain challenges are particularly difficult for California, he said, as the state has been more shut down by the pandemic than other states.

“I think California restaurateurs have gone through some of the worst situations in terms of restaurant closures in the event of a pandemic. Locally, it was more closed off than many of the surrounding areas. I think restaurateurs in California are trying more than anywhere else to make up for lost time in terms of sales recovery and recovery.

Twenty-four percent of operators think it will take seven to 12 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant, and 48 percent think it will take more than a year, according to the California Restaurant Foundation .

The advocacy group is in the middle of a campaign called “The Grateful Table Dine Out,” which encourages people to patronize restaurants and raise funds for Restaurants Care, which aims to provide grants to restaurant workers. faced with difficulties.

Participants include Grill Concepts, Inc., whose brands include Daily Grill and Public School in Los Angeles County.

Its restaurants will donate $ 1 to the fund for every dessert sold, according to Jessica Kasilian, director of training and development.

Kasilian said the struggles of the pandemic are “not as common in mind” as they were last year, but are still happening. She described restaurants as playing a valuable role in getting back to normal.

“We take every precaution, being safe and wanting guests to come in and forget about COVID for a second, forget everything and just connect with the people they are with.”

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