Evansville restaurants battle staff shortages and occasional closures

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and restaurants across the country have struggled to stay afloat, citing staffing issues, a lack of resources or even worker burnout. employees.

These issues continue to plague businesses in the Evansville area.

Gerst Haus has been a Franklin Street staple for 22 years, but even longtime restaurants aren’t immune to the pressures facing businesses across the country.

Paul Ankenbrand, Managing Director of Gerst Haus, has been there from the start.

It started shortly after the restaurant opened and is in its 22nd year.

He says the problems they face now, however, are more recent.

“When the pandemic hit, we were down. You know, we were operating with a small team because we couldn’t allow people in, so a lot of people had time to do something better and better themselves, says Ankenbrand.

Originally open seven days a week, Gerst Haus had to reduce it to six, and they actually couldn’t open at all last Tuesday due to staffing issues.

The same problems have plagued the Smitty Italian steakhouse across the street.

Both restaurants have the same owner, and both have suffered.

“We had to close on some days,” says Ankenbrand, “and it was really hard to keep up.”

Turns out that’s not really a problem with the front desk staff.

These are the people you see when you eat: your servers, bartenders and hosts.

According to Ankenbrand, it’s actually a shortage of people willing to step behind the grill.

“I see it online. A place has to close for the day, and they say “we need help” and everyone says “well, I can be a waiter, I can be a bartender”, but that’s not really the point we have”, says Ankenbrand, “we need cooks”.

Even amid the occasional stoppages and sluggish service, Ankenbrand says most customers have been friendly, they understand.

“A lot of people understand that. They know one person can make or break the whole shift, you know? says Ankenbrand, “a lot of people are pretty okay with that. Some people aren’t quite as nice about it, but, you know, that’s to be expected.

Ankenbrand says he hopes they get their hands on other cooks who are willing to stay, but until then they will continue to do what is necessary to keep the place afloat, even if that means shutting down their doors when they cannot provide adequate service.

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