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Local restaurants struggle with shortages post pandemic

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - The pandemic may be coming to an end but for local restaurants, the challenges continue as many face employee and food supply shortages.

Tina Schumaker, Owner of JavaVino, said they have seen a variety of struggles post pandemic. While being extra busy was pleasantly welcomed, she said it has been difficult.

"We've continued with some of the same struggles that we had during the pandemic such as sourcing products that we used in the past. We've had to get more creative with that. We've also continued with some hiring struggles. Just getting people to show up for interviews as well as finding the right candidates that meet the needs of our team," said Schumaker.

With them opening up their patio and now implementing EatStreet, she said it has been difficult finding employees with certain availability. Schumaker explained that they are looking for employees eager to get to work with a good attitude.

"We are looking for a friendly face, a great smile, and someone who is willing to put in the work and get to know our guests that come in here because we truly feel that people remember how we made them feel when they come here to JavaVino. Of course the food is great, the beverages are great, but we really want them to remember how we made them feel," said Schumaker.

She said they actually did a recruitment video to show people all the potential positions they have to offer. Throughout the pandemic, many people took advantage of their carry-out option and Schumaker said that is something that has continued to be steady and with business picking up, they are doing a lot of juggling.

"What we really want people to know is that if they apply here, it is a family friendly environment. It is family owned and operated. I own the place, I am here most days. We take care of our employees like we do our family. It's a very fun and vibrant environment. We work hard but also play hard and that creates a great environment for our staff to work in," said Schumaker.

Just across town, Piggy's is facing similar challenges. Chris Roderique, Chef and Owner of Piggy's and Uno Venti, said the pandemic has led to a few big changes for them. Before the pandemic, they had two restaurants, Piggy's upstairs and the Blues Lounge downstairs. When they shut down, they had to lay off 71 employees and after they re-opened, Roderique said they thought it would be hard to run one restaurant let alone two, so they closed the Blues Lounge and are just going with the one.

They turned the downstairs into the dining room and the upstairs is now for events. But now, they are facing some of the same challenges other restaurants are facing.

"The one thing I think the public doesn't understand is the shortages. Even though restaurants are short-handed on wait staff and kitchen people, food producers are, too," said Roderique. "We are really having a hard time getting the products that we need to keep our menu alive. We cannot get ribs. We are a place called Piggy's and we cannot get ribs."

He explained that this week they are also struggling to get fresh chickens.

"Prices are going through the roof because there aren't enough truckers to bring the stuff over from California for produce or even locally. Everybody is challenged. It doesn't matter which facet of the foodservice business that you're in," said Roderique. "It's a reflection on the customer experience in my opinion."

They are hiring, Roderique said, and moving forward they will need employees to sustain their business. He is asking for patience from community members when dining with them because of the shortages.

"You can see looking around the dining room that there are still tables closed. That's because we don't want to overwork the staff that we have. We can't just open up fully because we would be providing terrible service and what good does that do you," said Roderique.

He said the expectation level for many people is extremely high coming off the pandemic and they have lost employees because of how they have been treated by the public and that makes it even tougher.

For anyone looking for a position, you can visit their websites or go into the restaurants to apply or talk to the owners.

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Rylie Kyhn

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