It was a sign of the times – quite literally.
My family and I were out and about Saturday afternoon when we decided to head to Dairy Queen for a sweet treat.
We pulled into the drive-thru and were happy to see that there were no cars waiting.
That was until we saw the sign saying the restaurant would not open until later that day because it was understaffed.
Restaurants across the city, area and country are facing a staffing shortage.
According to industry group National Restaurant News, employment numbers are 8% below what they were before the pandemic. At full-service restaurants, the staffing levels are 11% below what they were in March 2020.
A report from the National Restaurant Association released Tuesday detailed the effects of the delta variant and the labor crisis.
The mid-year report says three-quarters of restaurant operators said that recruiting employees was the No. 1 concern.
Signs at local restaurants and posts on social media advertise jobs and announce changes to hours and menus.
For example, Cosmos Restaurant on Lima Road will be closed for dine-in seating through Sunday. The restaurant, which will operate as carryout only, cited staffing limitations in a social media post. (The Cosmos on St. Joe Center Road is open for normal hours.)
Some places, such as The Stand Coneys & Ice Cream in Waynedale, are reducing hours because of limited staff, and other restaurants are amending hours on short notice in response to staffing challenges.
Mark Melchi, owner of the Lucky Moose on Dupont Road, has changed the hours at the restaurant. It's now closing earlier and is not open on Sundays.
Although Sunday was the busiest day of the week, it was also the day when every staff member worked. Closing that day allowed everyone to have a day off, Melchi says.
In addition, the popular salad bar has been taken out. Melchi says he didn't have the prep staff to make the salads and soups or the floor staff to maintain it.
“There's nobody applying for jobs,” he says. “It's pretty ugly.”
Melchi says Lucky Moose receives maybe one application a month. And to help retain the employees he has, he gave the kitchen staff a significant raise this summer.
But restaurant-goers might notice more than a longer wait the next time they go out to eat.
The labor woes, coupled with rising food costs, has also meant a jump in menu prices.
The National Restaurant Association report also showed a 4% increase in menu prices between January and June. It's the biggest increase since the 2008 recession.
Melchi has seen some ingredient prices increase as much as 400%. Other prices are up 60% to 100% – and that's if you can find the ingredients.
He says he drove 600 miles last month to find crab meat.
There is a glimmer of hope, though, as hiring was strong in July.
Brevin's Downtown Eatery & Lounge in Churubusco is preparing to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
Beginning Tuesday, the restaurant will offer a different special each day to mark the occasion. On Tuesday, a portion of sales will be donated to local food banks.
Guests can bring non-perishable items to receive a free drink. Kids night will be Wednesday, and children can enjoy free ice cream and play games.
On Sept. 9, Brevin's will have on special its slow-cooked corned beef and cabbage along with live music. Activities will continue Sept. 10 to 11, including a beer garden and a tribute to 9/11.
More details on the birthday celebration are available on Brevin's Facebook page.
Big Easy Feast
The Rotary Big Easy Feast Reignited will be from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Sept. 14.
The event, hosted by Rotary Club of Fort Wayne, will be on the concourse at Parkview Field.
The cost is $50 a person, and a bourbon tasting is included. A cash bar will be available, too.
Go to Eventbrite.com and search for Big Easy Fall Feast.
Proceeds support Wellspring on Wheels and scholarships for Interact students at New Tech and Homestead high schools.
• One Life Nutrition recently opened in Maplewood Plaza. The shop, 6207 Plantation Lane, offers protein shakes, energy drinks and protein iced coffee. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
• The Wells Street corridor will soon have a new restaurant. Ophelia's All Day Cafe will be in the former Bird & Cleaver location at 1603 N. Wells St. The cafe will have coffee and cocktails, and the owners have filed for a downtown district liquor license.
• The Venice Restaurant, 2242 Goshen Road, has reopened after a renovation project. The casual Italian spot has a new kitchen, including flooring and ceiling.
The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email email@example.com or call 461-8304 at least two weeks before event or desired publication.
• The labor shortage that has many businesses posting hiring signs developed over time. A two-day report starting Sunday looks at the history and how employers, educators and other stakeholders are responding.