On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss why labor shortage and restaurant closures remain the norm for the restaurant industry even as Covid-19 related restraints are no longer in place. The trio try to figure out if the labor pool actually shrunk or if more restaurants need to rethink their service models. Tune in for more.

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Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: And I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: And in Seattle, Wash., I’m Zach Geballe.

A: And this is the “VinePair Podcast.” Welcome back from Atlanta, Joanna.

J: Thank you very much.

A: How was the Hue Society’s Wine and Culture Fest?

J: It was amazing, as usual. Went down there with colleagues, Keith and Katie. You’re familiar with them.

A: Yeah, those people are the best.

J: We had a blast. We drank a lot.

A: You did?

J: Yeah. We drank a lot of wine, and then we went out and drank a lot of drinks. Other drinks.

Z: Did you take the award with you the whole time, like when you win the Stanley Cup? Did you tour it around Atlanta?

J: Oh no. It was like the last thing we did was win an award. So I just stuffed it in a bag and took it on the plane.

A: You and Keith gave a great speech.

J: Thank you. I, in my haze and nervousness, totally forgot to mention you and Josh, Adam. I’m so sorry. But I meant to, it was written.

Z: She had paragraphs on me, but not on you guys, sorry.

A: I saw when you gave it, and went back to Keith and I was like, “What’s happening?”

J: Yeah. I think we both blacked out a little bit, but it’s okay.

Keith Beavers: We don’t know what we said.

A: It’s cool.

J: But it was such an honor to win that award, and so much fun to drink so many wonderful wines and have great cocktails.

A: What have you been drinking?

J: So wine-wise, while we were there, we had some really delicious stuff from different winemakers around the world, actually. A few standouts for me were Paula Harrell Wines, Chris Christensen’s Bodkin Wines, and wines from Natasha Williams under the label called, I’m going to mess it up, and I’m so sorry, but Lelie van Saron, it’s a South African wine.

A: Cool.

J: They were very, very delicious. And then outside of that, we went to a number of very good restaurants while we were there. One was Miller Union, and we had some delicious Foradori wine.

A: Oh, the best.

J: And then we went to a few different cocktail spots. Talat Market was a really great one. They have Thai-inspired classics on their menu, which were really great. We went to The James Room, which was also great, a lot of wonderful classic cocktails. And then we went to BoccaLupo, which had cocktails too, but we had some Coast wine that was very delicious.

A: Ah, Coast, always delicious.

J: So a lot of good eating and drinking this weekend.

A: ATL man.

J: It’s a great city for eating and drinking, I think.

A: It really is.

J: I mean, there’s wonderful culture there too, but for those two things, I think it excels, maybe a little underrated.

A: I think it is. I think it definitely is. Yeah. It’s a lot of fun. What about you Zach?

Z: Well, at time of recording, my wife has been out of town for work since Sunday. And so I have mostly been drinking to survive, me and the kids. It’s been a bit of a… It’s fine, but my daughter, who’s not quite a year old, had a very difficult time going to bed one night. And that night, when she finally did fall asleep, as it turns out, not for very long, but in the interim between when she was awake and awake again, I definitely poured myself a sizable pour of Lagavulin, which is one of my favorite single malts.

J: Nice.

Z: Single malt has been what I’ve been drinking, because it’s really good for me. The children are finally asleep, the crushing weight of solo parenting, with also our other childcare provider out of town, it’s been a little much. So anyhow, a lot of single malt. I did have a really nice bottle of rosé the other day, too, which was from the folks at Big Table Farm down in the Willamette Valley, their Laughing Pig Rosé, which is a rosé of Pinot Noir. And that was quite delightful. It’s been quite hot here, so it was a nice kind of refresher with dinner. But, yeah, just mostly Scotch and trying to drink a lot of coffee to get through the sleep-deprived days. So if I’m a little incoherent today, you’ll know why. How about you, Adam?

A: So for me, I had a few delicious things, but the two that really stood out in the last week was, one, I had a bottle of Morgon made by Thibault Ducroux, I’m going to butcher that name, too, imported by Jenny and Francois. That was like a clean, delicious, just really nice Morgon. Had that at Inga’s Bar, which is the new restaurant in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

J: Nice.

A: It was really cool, really nice.

J: Nice. I hear, I hear Brooklyn Heights is blowing up.

A: I mean apparently Montague Street is the new thing.

J: You’re so ahead of the trend, Adam.

A: Always. And then I had some Grimm beers recently.

J: Nice.

A: And the one that stood up the most to me was Butterfly Door, which is one of their hazy IPAs. You know craft breweries, they love these weird names for their limited releases.

J: Well, that’s part of the appeal, right?

A: Yeah.

Z: Although I would’ve had no idea what kind of beer that was from the name, it could be anything.

A: Yeah.

J: What is it, Butterfly, what?

A: Door.

J: No.

Z: Yeah. It could be a hazy IPA. It could be a fruited sour. It could be a pilsner. Who the f*ck knows?

A: Butterfly Door. On the can is just like a DeLorean. You know with a door that flies open, a butterfly door.

Z: Oh, okay. Fair enough.

A: It’s just so ridiculous.

J: I’d love to talk to a few brewers about how they come up with naming their beers.

A: They get really high, then they name the beer.

Z: Actually, somewhere on the internet, there is like a beer name generator and they just hit refresh until they find one they like.

J: Oh, yes.

A: And then the third thing I had is going to jump us off into our staffing segment, and that is, I had a really interesting Gibson at a new restaurant that has opened in Fort Greene. But the problem with this new restaurant was that it’s very hard to get into. It’s not like Miss Ada hard, but it’s hard. It’s always booked. It’s gotten a lot of press. It sort of has an Italian theme to it, lab coats, that kind of jam, if you know what I’m talking about, you know. And it’s quite expensive. And we were in and out in 45 minutes.

J: Oh wow.

A: Because of staffing issues. They were so understaffed that they were just rushing the food as fast as possible. And there was one server covering the entire restaurant.

J: Oh wow.

A: So once he got your order, the food went, you know what I mean? And so that had me thinking a lot about just this conversation we had a long time ago about what is going to be the new normal of restaurants. I think we now are at a point where a lot of people feel like the pandemic has reached a sort of constant-demic, where we’re going to live with this. And people are going back to work. We’re at the office. Other people are back on planes, things like that. And there’s been a lot of things over the past few months that continue to be an issue for restaurants, and staffing is the biggest. My cousin owns a Mexican restaurant here in New York, and they’ve been unable to open certain weekends because, literally, one staff member is calling in sick and it means they can’t run the kitchen or they can’t run the front of house. And so I’ve started to really wonder, what does the new model look like? Because there’s been so few places I’ve gone to, since this pandemic, where the idea of high-touch service exists anymore. Where, I think the reason we got rushed was not the server’s fault. The reason we got rushed was because no one was paying attention to our table. And whenever that check went in, no one was like, “Okay, now fire this or fire that.” And so everything just came. And so then by the time the entree came, we were going to order wine, but what was the point at that point? And I think that’s also a disservice to the restaurant. No owner would want to hear that, that there was a table that would’ve drank something else, which is a big margin, and they lost out on it. And then this past week, Naomi was out to dinner, another buzzy restaurant, and they came over to their table after they’d sat down for 30 minutes, they weren’t drinking and said, “Hey, we’re kind of understaffed, so once you’re done with your food, if you guys want to hang out, that’s cool, but we would like to move you to the bar, because it’d be easier for us to deal with you there.” And they were just like, “What?” It was so weird. And the thing is, the food was amazing. I see why people have written about it for the food, but they were just honest. But that’s still so off-putting to the consumer to be told like, “Hey, we don’t want to deal with your table anymore. And we could use this table for something else. And it’d be easier for us to just kind of let you hang at the bar if we don’t need to deal with you, because we only have one person basically on the floor.” And so you just keep seeing this happening more and more and more. And so I wanted to sort of chat about this, and say, “What do we think the future is?” You see some people getting creative with ordering at the counter. So there’s a lot of that, where there’s really just a runner now and maybe your food’s not paced, but maybe that allows the cost to come down a little bit, because you order at the counter, you get up when you need something. And you still are willing to order a chicken Milanese or something like that. Or is the future like robot servers? You’re seeing this in lots of dim sum restaurants in New York now, where, literally, robots are coming around delivering soup dumplings and stuff like that. It seems like we’re past a point where this is going to correct itself, at least anytime soon. So what’s the solution? Because I think the problem is a lot of consumers are unwilling anymore to hear that it’s a staffing problem. When I talk to our readers, general consumers, etc., everyone’s like, “I’m over it now,” or, “I’m going to leave less of a tip,” or, “I’m going to not frequent that place again.” And that sucks too, because I don’t think this is the fault of the restaurants. Knowing so many people in the industry, it is a staffing issue. But then, do we need to change the model? That’s what I’m curious about today.

J: I think what’s particularly hard about this as well, is that prices are going up too. So it feels like the hospitality or the dining experience has changed in a pretty dramatic way and you’re paying more for it. And I think we can talk about what, what we think will change, but I do think what will need to change is how we handle these things as diners and what our expectations are, and I think we’re going to have to lower our expectations because, like you said, it’s not their fault. If people call out sick or they’re just chronically understaffed, it’s not their fault if the service suffers as a result of that. And I think we’re just going to have to change our expectations while simultaneously paying more for that experience and for that privilege of going out to eat.

A: Then does that mean that maybe just, like, a lot of restaurants need to close?

J: I mean, I think it’s kind of remarkable that new restaurants are opening. I think that must be really challenging, right? Most places are, like, “We’re hiring.” And who are they hiring? The staffing pool is extremely small. We know this, and this hasn’t changed.

Z: This is really funny to me in a way, because literally the very first thing I ever wrote about the restaurant industry in my professional career, which was now probably 12 years ago, was about how hard it was to hire people — this was in Seattle at the time — and why the labor pool was smaller and less skilled than it had ever been. And it’s only gotten worse since then. And I think there are a lot of reasons for this and a lot of them are, like everything else that has come out of the pandemic, it has served to accelerate certain things. And I think a big piece of it is that we as members of the dining public have gotten very used to a certain model for dining that I think is grossly unsustainable. And it’s not even so much about cost. It’s about access to restaurants in that a model for a lot of restaurants that just no longer works is being open seven days a week for long stretches of time. It’s really, really hard to staff those kinds of restaurants and to staff them through the lean times. I think one thing that we’re seeing in this current landscape, where there is a lot of demand, is people are jumping around because they’re looking for a better job. They’re looking for better pay, when possible. And that’s fine. That’s certainly their right to do so. And at the same time, I think you’re also seeing restaurants that are, whether they’re new or old, not saying something like, “Is it better, perhaps, for us to be open four or five nights a week fully staffed than seven nights a week understaffed?” And I get it. On the one hand, you can understand the thought process of the owner and operator being like, “Well, I’m f*cking paying rent seven days a week, so why do I want to be closed two or three of those days? And just sort of throwing money away.” But on the other hand, I think there’s this real risk, if you’re trying to build something that is long term and sustainable, and you’re not just trying to open something, get some hype, burn through it in two years and then move on. Which some people do and that’s its own business model, and that works for some folks. Certainly in a place like New York, I think it’s a little more viable than in a lot of other markets. But if you’re looking to build a sustainable restaurant, your goal is to be open for a decade-plus. I mean, I think that’s most operators’ goals, at least when they launch. You might have to focus on what you can plausibly do. And that might be shorter hours, fewer days. You might not be able to do multiple services. The story you relayed, the second one you relayed, Adam, about Naomi’s experience, is I think a really tragic one. Because as great as the food can be, I think there are not very many people who are willing to put up with sh*tty service. And I’m not knocking the people who provided the service; in some cases, they’re just in a bad position. They’re not the ones responsible for staffing. Maybe their manager is like, “Hey, you gotta get those folks off that table. We have another table to seat.” And they didn’t do it in a very graceful way, but that’s how it goes sometimes. But in the end, I feel like with that kind of experience, there’s very few people who are willing to put up with being given sh*tty service just to get great food. Because the truth is that in New York City, and in lots of other places, there are other great restaurants to try. And I think there’s just this sadness to me in hearing these stories, and I’ve heard them from lots of other people here in Seattle and other places too, of just how that ability to feel taken care of in a restaurant, that is so central to the experience of dining out for most of us, is just really hard to do when you’re understaffed, when your service staff is overworked, they’re exhausted. I’ve been that person providing that not-great service a few times. It didn’t feel good after the fact. But when you’re working your third double in a row, and you’re just f*cking burned out, it’s really hard to be graceful with people. And sometimes those people don’t deserve a lot of grace, because sometimes they can be sh*tty, but oftentimes they did. And it always made me feel bad after the fact to have been somewhat short with someone, or just not give them the service that they probably deserved, because it’s not their fault that I’m the one stuck working a third double because no one else is available. And that is not a sustainable model for anyone. It’s not for the people providing the service, it’s not for the operators, and it’s not for diners, either.

A: So I have a question here.

J: Well, I have one more thought off of that.

A: Yes.

J: Sorry. So I also just think that in order to get that level of hospitality and to be taken care of, I think we’re going to have to pay a premium for it. You’re going to go to the fine-dining restaurants, and they’ll take care of you and it will be a wonderful experience, but it will be very, very expensive.

A: But that’s why I’m wondering if there are just too many of the other kinds of restaurants that… The ones that are easier to hire for are the ones that are always packed, and even if they’re in this middle tier, the service team knows they’re going to make a lot of money, because these places are packed and they do massive turnover, and it’s usually a great experience, even if they’re not super high-end. The ones that I feel like are harder are those that are like somewhere in the middle, some nights they’re packed, maybe weekends, but Thursday’s a little bit less full than Friday. Wednesday’s not full at all. And the thing that always blew me away about New York, when I first moved here was, there were a lot of places in Atlanta, and I think there still are, where the counter ordering system was very common. There was a place I think about a lot called FIGO Pasta. I don’t even know if it still exists anymore. I mean, we went to a place like this in Atlanta as well, when I took you to Taqueria del Sol last year. It was in the same shopping center. So you had Bacchanalia in the shopping center as well, which was, it would be a two- to three-star Michelin restaurant, if they did Michelin in Atlanta, super high-end tasting menu. You had Taqueria and FIGO. FIGO was a really nice Italian restaurant, but you ordered at the counter, you ordered your bottle of wine, your cocktail, whatever. And then all the service staff was in charge of was basically pacing. They would drop the food, etc. And because you paid at the beginning, you left your tip at the beginning too, and a lot of people, I think, tip better before the experience than after. And especially as we’re seeing now with all these studies about how people are tipping higher, because it’s on the screen. I mean, I’m talking about FIGO 10 years ago. Now, if it’s a screen and someone can leave a really good tip and then go sit down, and they know that like, for an hour and a half, they’re here having this experience, but they’ve already placed their order. They talked to the person at the counter who might be more well versed in both the food and the wine. You put your best person behind the counter to interact with the guests. And then everyone else is just kind of running the food. Maybe that’s part of the solution. Maybe we do need to see more of these kinds of places where you can get people in and out, you can move people through. I think people don’t tend to linger at places like that. Because also, once the drinks are gone, you would have to get back up and go back to the counter again, to order, so you’re not going to really do that. So when your meal is done, your meal is done. If you didn’t place an order for coffee at the end, you probably aren’t going to have it. And then you go home.

J: And there’s a lower entry for staffing there, too.

A: Right. And then people feel like, okay, I can go out and for a couple, maybe have a $100 night, which I think in New York at all right now is pretty impossible. And that’s where I think people get very frustrated, when you’re doing that cost-benefit analysis. And, yes, in a perfect world, everyone would be understanding. But when you start saying, “I’m paying over $100 for my night out, and it sucked,” people are less understanding.

J: Sure.

A: Which is why I understand why people don’t want to go back into that industry, because they’re going to be abused.

Z: Well, it’s also an expectation setting with that kind of service, right?

A: Yeah.

Z: You order at a counter and automatically all of us are pleased if the service exceeds our expectations. And if all the service does is provide you with your food that you ordered, you’re like, “Okay, that’s kind of what I got into this expecting, and great.” And if the server is, or whoever, the front-of-house people, are more engaging and knowledgeable and helpful than you anticipated, then you’re going to walk away from that experience feeling great, even if the exact same level of service would be just like par for the course at a full-service restaurant. And I think about this sometimes in the same way we think about service in bars. If you think about what you expect, if you walk into not just a dive bar, but like a neighborhood bar, right?

A: Yeah.

Z: Not a place that’s a cocktail bar, not a place where you’re expecting that. And what you expect is that the bartender gets you your drink relatively promptly. Maybe if it’s not super busy, they chat with you for a little bit, if you’re there by yourself. But mostly they just provide you with your drinks and you tip them, and you’re done. You’re not expecting them to kind of carry you through this experience. And the other thing I wanted to say is, certainly, I think here in Seattle I’ve seen this, I imagine it’s only more so in New York, you also see a lot of restaurants opening that are promising a dining experience that they just cannot deliver on. And some of that is a food side of things. But a lot of it is service. And if you’re kind of breathlessly promising this incredible food and this dynamite wine list and these great cocktails, opening a place like that without having everything really dialed in from the service standpoint? You’re just dooming yourself to fail. Because the truth is that, we’ve talked about this, I think, on the pod, at least indirectly, before, but a lot of these places that open — again, the press release is breathlessly gushing about the qualifications of the chef and the sommelier, or wine director, and the head bartender. And none of those people are there most of the time, or they’re onto a new project six months in. And they just leave behind this kind of decayed shell of a restaurant. That’s like, everyone else is just trying to kind of pick up the pieces. And this is a part of the way that restaurants operate in this modern kind of environment that I find really unfortunate. Which is like, for a lot of people it’s like, burn bright and then crash. And that is driven, maybe, by the landscape and the sort of staffing issues don’t help, but it is one of these things where you are just kind of… I’m very skeptical these days with most of the press releases I read.

J: I don’t know. I was thinking of just when you were mentioning the shorter hours earlier, Zach, other things we could maybe see that might help with this. And we’ve already seen some of it in New York with some new restaurants opening with just tasting menus or just more limited menus. I think that’s definitely something we could see more of, which obviously changes the dining experience. And something else, I don’t know, maybe there’s something to borrowing from an omakase and doing seatings. So that you have three seatings a night, and they book up and that’s kind of the extent of your service. And you can kind of anticipate that and staff for it. But those were some other things I was thinking about.

Z: Well, I just was going to say, that actually prompts something that I had meant to mention earlier. And I’m very curious, because I feel like New York is a place where maybe you’re seeing this and is a good spot for it. Which is, how about what, I guess, maybe might be termed or maybe is already being termed micro restaurants — a place that has only 10 or 12 seats.

J: Yes.

Z: I feel like we went through a little bit of a craze of this a while ago with places that were just basically chef’s counters. But the idea of space where, yeah, you have a very limited number of seats. You’re booking everything out in advance. And, obviously, this is a kind of dining that can only work for certain models; every restaurant can’t do this, but that allows you to also very precisely know your staffing needs. Because coming at this from the other side of it, where it’s not just a staffing issue in terms of like, “We just don’t have enough people to work,” having been on the managerial side to some extent too, one of the hardest things about staffing restaurants is not knowing what to expect. Unless you’re the kind of place that’s booking out pretty much solid all night, which, look, those restaurants exist, but they are not the norm. A lot of times, you’re just having to make an educated guest. And you know what happens if you bring in too much staff, your staff is b*tchy all night, because they know they’re not going to make as much money. They’re bored. They have other stuff they want to be doing. And so you’re always kind of running this fine line as a manager or the person who’s making staffing decisions, not on a macro level, but on a shift-to-shift level of over- or understaffing. And if you miss on either side, you’re in kind of bad shape. And if you miss consistently on either side, your staff’s going to get unhappy or your customers are going to get unhappy, or both. And that’s a really difficult thing to do. And that reservation systems and bookings and things like that can help ameliorate. Even if it’s not necessarily an option for many kinds of restaurants, those that could do it, it might behoove them to do so.

A: I’m curious if partly why we’re still seeing issues, even with these new spaces, is because these were ideas that existed pre-pandemic.

Z: Interesting.

A: And no one’s really adapted yet. Is it going to take another six months to a year for people starting to realize like, “Oh, sh*t, this isn’t correcting?”

J: Well, they’re coming up with their business model now.

A: Right. And now realizing this, because I think a lot of people assumed that it was going to correct. And it’s just not. I was listening to this interesting interview about airlines, and I think it’s the same: Why are we having so many airline issues right now? Because of staffing. Well, who wants to go take a job to be abused? If what they’re reading about is that people are complaining about their flights getting canceled and being delayed, etc. Do you want to be that gate agent? Do you want to be that flight attendant? That’s not a lot of fun. That doesn’t sound like the career decision you make right now. And if you’re hearing the same thing in the restaurant industry that customers are being assholes because there’s not a lot of people on the floor. And so they’re getting frustrated, because it’s taking a while for their food to come, or their food’s coming too fast, or you’re not getting their orders fast enough.

J: It’s just a cycle.

A: Right. Then you don’t want to work there. Why would you want to? And then the other thing is, and it’s interesting that, Joanna, you brought this up, because I think your conclusion is, I think, what’s going to happen is I do think we’re going to see an elimination of most of the middle-tier restaurants. From what I’ve heard from people in the industry, the highest-end restaurants, they’re who’s stealing the staff. So for example, the taco place I’m talking about, my cousin’s, they are on the same block as Gotham Bar and Grill. Gotham Bar and Grill hired away one of their front-of-house people to be a server there, because they can make more money there, and it’s Gotham Bar and Grill. They’re going to get someone else. They’re not looking anymore for people who have similar experience. And I think that’s what’s going to happen. And so the middle is going to be sort of sucked out.

Z: And I want to elaborate on this point, because I think there’s another important piece here. And I think it connects both the service side, the kitchen side, and also, to some extent what you’re talking about with airlines and other industries like that. And it’s this: When I got into the restaurant industry, which was a long time ago now, there was a notion among the people I worked with, the front-of-house staff in particular, that if you worked in a good restaurant, in Seattle, and this is in the early 2000s, you could make a good wage. You weren’t going to be wealthy, but I worked with people who bought houses, raised children, and did all that on a server’s wage. As Seattle and other cities have gotten more and more expensive, that has become less and less possible. And even if you work in a restaurant where you make good tips, the truth is is that for reasons that are understandable, i.e., now all your tips are mostly tracked, because they’re credit cards and you can’t cheat on your taxes the way a lot of people I worked with did in the early 2000s, when you were mostly getting cash tips, and because the reality is that income for people in the service industry has not really kept up with inflation or certainly tracked with the rise of just cost of living in these cities. When you combine it with the fact that it’s become clearer and clearer to a lot of people that there isn’t a long term trajectory for most people in the front of house or even back of house, frankly, that you can aspire to. Unless you really want to be someone like I ended up becoming, a wine specialist, or maybe you’re really into bartending, really into cocktails, and you could envision becoming a bar director or a beverage director for a larger company or opening your own bar potentially. There aren’t a lot of paths that you can see for yourself where, “Okay, maybe I’m going to work in this industry at not great wages for a few years, but it’s going to lead me somewhere.” And the truth is that most of the people I worked with who had any kind of those aspirations to buy a house, have a family, they left the restaurant industry, if not during the pandemic, before it. And those people are working here in Seattle, they’re mostly working for Amazon, frankly, or they’re working for other tech companies. And they’re not doing tech work, per se, they’re doing admin work or things like that. But they make at least as much money, they have things like vacation pay and healthcare and regular hours. And they have opportunities to get promotions and raises. And these are things that, when I was working in the restaurant industry, seemed alien to me. It was like, “Oh, wait, friends of mine who work in other industries, you get a holiday bonus? That’s cool. I don’t. You get pay raises? I get better shifts, maybe. Or maybe my tips will go up if I do a better job.” But it is an industry that is not really built for the realities of 2022, for most people. And if you’re someone who is a young person today you are acutely aware, I think, that if you just… I mean, I don’t mean this negatively, because I did this. It’s not a criticism. If you just kind of f*ck around in your 20s, you’re much more behind the eight ball, if you have those life goals. It’s hard to catch up to your peer group. It’s already hard enough for your peer group, who was like, “I’m going to go right away working in different kinds of industries.” But if you are the kind of person who wants to work at restaurants because it’s fun and it’s fun hours and you have more flexibility and maybe you get more cash up front, but you’re not building towards anything, making up that lost decade is really, really hard. And I think that whether people are thinking of it in those terms or not, I think it’s just the reality that the industry is much less enticing to people than it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. And the industry has always relied on that influx of people in their early 20s, who, whether they have long-term ambitions in the restaurant industry or not, provide a lot of that sort of lower-level labor force. And whether it’s working in more casual restaurants and then moving on to nicer restaurants, or being your food runners and your back waiters and your busser and stuff in nicer restaurants and eventually working your way up to higher positions, there just isn’t that influx of people. Because that generation, that cohort is like, “Why the f*ck do I want to do that? I don’t.” And I can’t say I blame them.

J: Yeah. That’s pretty bleak.

Z: I’m not getting much sleep, Joanna. I’m in a bleak mood.

A: I would be interested to hear what people think are solutions. What new models do you think of, if you’re listening to the podcast? If you work in the industry, what you’re seeing that’s working. Look, also, maybe we’re hearing this across the country, but maybe in your market, it’s not as big of a problem as it is in other markets. I’m curious about all of that. So hit us up at [email protected], and let us know what you think. I do think where you are seeing this hit the hardest, which is really interesting, and I think we’ve all kind of alluded to it, but it is in this, not just the middle tier, but these middle-tier restaurant groups. Whereas, Joanna and Zach, you both kind of said pieces of this, where, when it’s too expensive, so we’re getting frustrated, but also the real players aren’t there. At all the restaurants, even in Brooklyn, I can think of that are still crushing it, and the experience is great, usually one of the owners is there. One of the owners or the chef, or it was built behind a really well-known beverage professional, and they’re always on the floor, especially on the key nights. Those are usually the places that are still incredible joys to be at. And then there’s the places where you can just tell everyone stretched too thin, and there’s not enough people. And the owners, fair or not fair, want a weekend. And they want to have the same things, and that makes it hard. And they can’t be everywhere. They can’t be everywhere. Well, hit us up at [email protected], let us know what you think. Really curious to hear if you think counter ordering, robots, or other things are the future. And we’ll see you all back here on Friday.

J: Looking forward to it.

Z: Sounds great.

Thanks so much for listening to the VinePair Podcast, the flagship podcast of the VinePair Podcast Network. If you love listening to this show, or even if you don’t, but I really hope that you do, as much as we really do love making it, then please drop us a review or a rating wherever it is that you get your podcast, whether that be iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere. If you are listening to this on a device right now, through an app, however you got this audio, please drop a review. It really helps everyone else discover the show.

And now for some totally awesome credits. So the VinePair Podcast is recorded in our New York City headquarters, and in Seattle, Wash., in Zach Geballe’s basement. It is recorded by Zach, mastered and produced by Zach. He loves all the credit. Keep giving it to him. Drop his name in the reviews. He’s going to love hearing how much you love him. It is also recorded in New York City by our tastings director, Keith Beavers, who is the managing director of the entire VinePair Podcast Network.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.