‘It’s a noticeable trend’: Newport restaurant pleads for patience from patrons amid worker shortage

East Bay

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Reef in Newport has had no problems filling tables since restrictions were lifted in Rhode Island, but with limited staffing, Director of Operations Justin Ferland tells 12 News they’re struggling to keep up.

Ferland said The Reef is currently booking reservations six weeks out while also looking to fill approximately 40 job openings.

“It’s been a difficult season,” Ferland said. “We’ve seen a huge influx of guests.”

“So many people lost jobs during the pandemic that they just didn’t come back to the industry after they left,” he continued. “They’ve found other sectors of work and we haven’t been able to replenish those workers.”

With a skeleton crew working nonstop every single night, Ferland said it’s been extremely stressful, especially when patrons aren’t patient and understanding.

Ferland said he’s had several guests verbally assault his employees about their job performance.

“It’s not everybody, it’s not the majority of people, but it’s a noticeable trend,” Ferland said. “It affects the staff that we have that are working really hard to give the best quality food and service to all of our guests while dealing with a shortage in labor.”

Ferland said patrons have also left negative reviews online. Those comments, he said, can have a detrimental impact on business.

“A lot of people become keyboard warriors and put comments online rather than try to address it in person while they’re at the restaurant,” Ferland said.

“If you’re coming into Newport and you’re a visitor, you might not necessarily have firsthand knowledge of the restaurants and you might go to reviews online to get an idea of the best place to go and spend your money,” he added. “Bad reviews aren’t going to drive business to your restaurant.”

The Reef isn’t alone. Ferland said dozens of other Newport restaurants are also seating hundreds of guests a night with little staffing.

“Everyone is feeling that same pressure,” he said.

Courtney Urban and Brittney Cruz are visiting the City by the Sea for a bachelorette party. They tell 12 News they’ve already noticed the lasting impacts of the pandemic during their visit to the City by the Sea.

“A lot of places are short-staffed and people can only do so much at one time,” Urban said. “I think sometimes people need to take a step back and look at what the servers are actually doing.”

“Put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand that everyone is working as hard as they can and you just have to do the best you can,” Cruz added.

Ferland is asking everyone for patience this season as restaurants rebound from the pandemic. He also said anyone interested in working at The Reef can apply online.

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