As the end of summer arrives, Wichita restaurant owners are becoming overwhelmed, and many seem near their breaking points.
They can’t find employees. They can’t get their food orders. They can’t work another hour without losing their minds.
Over the past couple of weeks, several restaurant owners have taken to social media to share their troubles and to ask customers for understanding. Others have just decided to check out temporarily — or permanently.
Greg Cook, who opened his Lilikoi Asian Bistro at 12111 W. Maple in December, announced on Facebook last week that his restaurant was permanently closed. He’d shut down in June, saying that he needed to hire more staff, then never reopened.
In the post Cook, a former Hyatt chef, blamed bad timing and said the restaurant was a learning experience for him.
“Yet another victim of the current times we live in,” he wrote.
Staffing also has been an ongoing issue for Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, which announced three weeks ago that because of staffing issues, it would have to close the dining room at its 306 N. Rock Road store on Mondays, offering to-go only. In addition, its WSU store in Braeburn Square, 21st and Oliver, is now closed on Sundays. And the situation hasn’t improved much since the announcement was made, said franchisee Whitney Reitz.
Staff shortages also caused DeFazio’s, the popular Italian restaurant at 2706 N. Amidon, to close after lunch on Friday of last week. The frustrated owners posted the news on Facebook. They were able to reopen the next day and have stayed open ever since.
“During COVID we have had a difficult time with staffing and we truly regret having to close again,” the post read. “We appreciate all of our loyal customers and your support and understanding during these difficult times.”
Among other restaurants that have closed for a day here and there because of staffing shortages: Crazy Horse Supper Club at 2539 W. Pawnee, which closed on Sunday “due to staff shortage.”
Employee fatigue is the issue at Paradise Donuts, whose owner Marilyn Wright said this week that she’ll close both of her Wichita locations (10607 W. Maple St and 612 E. Douglas) starting on Saturday and running through Tuesday, Sept. 7, when the shops will reopen. Her production staff needs a “much overdue break,” Wright said. And though she’s worried that customers will be frustrated to find them closed, it’s necessary.
“We worked through the pandemic with a limited crew, which allowed us to remain open for service,” she said. “Giving the night production crew a paid two-week vacation is our thank you to them for their dedication and hard work.”
Overwork also has taken a toll at Beautiful Day Cafe, 2516 E. Central, where owners closed for just one day two weeks ago because employees and owners were “exhausted keeping everything going through this pandemic and are making too many mistakes.”
Meanwhile, other restaurants are suffering from food delivery issues after supplier Sysco abruptly cut some of its Wichita accounts early this month, citing its own staffing issues.
Rhonda Williams, who after a long wait had finally announced an opening day of Aug. 6 for her 750 Soul restaurant at 4601 E. 13th St., had to delay at the last minute after being cut by Sysco.
She’s looking for other vendors, she said, and hopes to reschedule an opening day for later this month. Williams is the previous owner of Rachel’s Kitchen, which operated at 818 N. Mosley until 2018.
Over the weekend, Mai Vo, the owner of Grandma Thuy’s at 8728 W. Maple, shared an emotional Facebook post about the difficulties her Asian to-go restaurant has been facing since it stopped getting shipments from Sysco two weeks ago.
She’s been searching for replacement products but has had trouble, she said, especially with finding chicken wings.
Staffing is a problem, too, and often, people who call to place orders can’t get an answer.
She begged customers for their patience.
“I have some customers that are really understanding and supportive and others who get upset,” the post read. “But please, to those who get upset… try understand a couple things….We are trying to keep our small restaurant going and doing our best daily to get what we can; we are also human and do not need to be talked down on or be yelled at.”