Crafty Crab, a seafood restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, has seen fewer people dining in during the pandemic. Like many restaurants, it still cannot find enough workers, and owners say fears over the delta variant and rising COVID cases are slowing business and taking a toll on servers who make rely on tips from customers.
"It’s been affecting us personally as a server because we only make like $2.15," said Isabel Blas, a server at the Crafty Crab. "Especially me, I’m a single mom, to pay for my bills and take care of my son."
The lack of customers means a lack of tips, making it hard to support a family.
"That’s why it’s hard for us as a bartender as well, it’s affecting our tips," said Crafty Crab bartender Toucherie Juaneza.
Crafty Crab district manager Tyler Potter says customers who do tip are tipping less, possibly because they’re trying to save cash during the pandemic.
"I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I can see the decline in what people are making," he said.
And restaurants are facing another problem: They’re struggling to find people to hire. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says restaurants lost 42,000 thousand workers in August, which is the first monthly decrease all year, according to the National Restaurant Association.
"If I could, I’d hire five to 10 people," Potter said, adding that hiring has been a struggle throughout the pandemic.
With nearby high schools and colleges beginning, he says more applicants usually come this time of year.
"Normally I’ve got about 15 to 25 applications in my desk, but I’ve only got one right now.," Potter said.
Potter says there are multiple reasons why people may not be interested in applying for a restaurant job right now. Juaneza says one reason could be because restaurant workers tend to be in close quarters with people, which she says isn’t ideal during a pandemic.
"I’m concerned by the people who surround me," she said.
Despite the staffing and dine-in challenges, Crafty Crab is on firm financial footing thanks to an increase in takeout and delivery orders. Potter says this is the new normal, at least for now.
"We’ll get through. We’ll do whatever we have to just to make sure we’re open every day and serving as many guests as possible," he said.