Updated July 8, 2021 - 7:36 pm
The good news: The original location of Lindo Michoacan Gourmet Mexican Cuisine at 2655 E. Desert Inn Road will reopen July 15 after nearly a year of repairs.
The bad news: Staffing problems that continue to plague the restaurant industry mean the company’s other two locations will be stretched thin and have delayed the opening of owner Javier Barajas’ new Italian spot until Sept. 1.
At the same time, the owner of another small chain has announced closures and other measures because of the personnel crunch.
“We’ve heard from many of our operators that they’re struggling to fill existing positions or expand capacity or their hours of operation, which have been limited,” Alexandria Dazlich, director of government affairs for the Nevada Restaurant Association, said Wednesday.
Some operators, like the vice president of the Hofbrauhaus, have said they have seen some relief through recent recruitment efforts, but Dazlich said it’s difficult to tell if the situation is improving.
“The problem is we believe the challenge isn’t caused by any one issue, but by several,” she said, including federal supplements to unemployment compensation, health and safety concerns, the need to care for children and other loved ones and competition from other industries.
Barajas blames the federal supplements, which is part of the reason he’s delaying the opening of Il Toro e la Capra until September, when they are due to end.
The industry has a whole has been under siege because of factors related to the pandemic, but Barajas had an extra challenge.
In November, he discovered a sinkhole beneath his original restaurant, which opened Jan. 6, 1990, because of a leak that had gone undetected for some time. The damage first manifested as cracking walls that progressed to sinking sections of the dining room floor.
“2020 has been full of surprises that no one, not a single one, has ever asked for,” he said last year. Barajas said repairs were expected to take six to eight months. They ended up taking 1o.
“Everything except the walls” was replaced, he said. “We did all the plumbing, all the floors, all the electrical — everything new.”
He was able to shift many of his employees to his other restaurants, at 645 Carnegie St. in Henderson and 10082 W. Flamingo Road.
“Everybody wants to come back to the original,” he said Wednesday, “but I’m having a hard time finding employees to cover the ones who are leaving. I was going to open the Italian one month after I open Lindo, but I’m going to wait another two weeks because of the employees.”
Barajas announced in December that he bought the former Rhythm Kitchen at 6435 S. Decatur Blvd. and planned to turn it into an Italian restaurant, Il Toro e la Capra, within three or four months.
“It’s almost ready,” he said. “I’m taking my time because it’s hard to get employees right now.”
Squeeze In closures
This week, Shila Morris, president and co-owner of Reno-based Squeeze In, announced closures at several of the company’s locations, including the one at 5165 S. Fort Apache Road, which was closed from Sunday until Thursday. (There is another valley location at 8876 S. Eastern Ave.)
“We literally do not have enough cooks to operate,” Morris wrote in an email to members of the company’s rewards program, “and after eight weeks of continuous hiring, training, begging, pleading and getting creative, we have a tiny, loyal, incredible team of individuals at their breaking point and in desperate need of help.”
Upcoming changes, Morris said, would include reduced capacity, a pause in takeout, removal of specials and labor-intensive menu items and the curtailing of coupon and promotional redemptions on weekends and holidays.
All employees have received raises, Morris said, but hiring bonuses, referral incentives and bonuses for completing each week of work have not been enough to adequately staff the restaurants.
“Operators definitely feel frustrated,” Dazlich said. “After a year of surviving at reduced capacity, they find themselves unable to keep up with the demand.” She said the National Restaurant Association found that 68 percent of operators reported challenges with recruitment and retention.
Which comes as no surprise to Barajas.
“I’ve been open 31 years,” he said, “and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”