Some Starbucks, Chipotle Sites Cut Hours, Limit Seating Over Omicron

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Nation’s restaurant industry is facing labor shortage and reduced service as the COVID-19 version deepens the challenges for operators

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“It’s one day at a time,” said Flynn Decker, chief executive of Korean fried-chicken chain Bonchon Franchise LLC. He said the chain recently closed its prime Manhattan location for four days after a handful of staff members tested positive.

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The Omicron edition is rolling back some of the practices and uncertainty from the early days of the pandemic that many Americans hoped were behind them, from the resumption of virtual education in schools to thousands of canceled flights. Some diners said they had a hard time knowing whether local restaurants and cafes would remain open, prompting them to eat more at home.

Nora Travis, a professor in Keene, NH, said she recently discovered that her local Starbucks was closing early or serving customers only at the drive-thru, resulting in lines of cars.

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“I don’t know what to do, so for now, I’ve stopped going completely,” Ms Travis said, adding that she also recently faced the closure of local gas stations during regular hours. have had to do.

Starbucks and other restaurants said they have learned how to work through the pandemic and have invested in the infrastructure to convert operations to delivery, drive-thru or takeout as needed. However, along with Burger King restaurant operator Carroll’s Restaurant Group, O’Micron is still weighing in on restaurant chains. Inc.,

shake Shack Inc.

and Denny’s Corporation

The virus spread among companies reporting weak sales last month.

“No one is safe from this,” Shake Shack chief executive Randy Garutti said at a recent investor conference. He said reduced hours, some temporary restaurant closures and office workers going back to work from home are expected to hurt the chain’s sales in its current quarter.

US restaurant sales declined compared to the same period pre-pandemic in the week ended December 26, the first weekly decrease since last March, according to restaurant analytics firm Black Box Intelligence.

kura sushi usa Inc.

It said earlier in January that Omicron cases among workers prompted the 35-unit chain to limit seating or operating hours at some of its restaurants, complicating its operations.

“It’s had a meaningful impact on our sales,” Kura Chief Executive Hajime “Jimmy” Uba told investors on the fallout from limiting dining rooms. The Irvine, Calif.-based chain said it expects the Omicron challenges to continue for several weeks.

In early January, Starbucks converted all 19 stores in the chain’s Buffalo, NY, market to drive-thru or pickup, a spokesperson said.

The barista at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, who recently voted to unionize, went out of work earlier this month for what she said was not safe because of Covid-19. The walkout lasted for several days.

Starbucks said the company has exceeded federal COVID-19 guidelines for safety during the pandemic and that the chain allows store managers to make local operating decisions, such as moving to takeout-only in Buffalo.

He said in early January the chain moved its Boston store to takeout-only, to prepare for a proof-of-vaccination requirement for locations inside the city. The company told employees late last month that it was experiencing more COVID-19 cases and exposures in its US stores.

The company said that some of Starbucks’ nearly 9,000 US cafes have revised store hours or service as the chain focuses on the safety of its employees and customers.

Several restaurant owners have recently led the rise in COVID-19 cases, saying they do not have enough staff to operate fully. The Labor Department said earlier in January that about 7% of restaurant and hotel workers quit in November, with 920,000 workers leaving their jobs. This was the largest number of workers exiting any industry category tracked.

Operators said that Omicron has made the condition of the employees worse.

Lindsay Mesher, owner of Greenhouse Cafe in Lebanon, Ohio, said her staffing is increasingly uncertain as more workers have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past few weeks. He limited his seating area again in recent weeks, just six months after finally reopening his dine-in business after the pandemic shut down.

“At any time, I may find myself on staff with little,” said Ms Mesher, who last month signed a letter to Congress advocating for more funding for independent restaurants.

The number of US restaurants closing temporarily has hit an all-time high of 2.4% of operators in the past month, according to DataSense, a food-industry market-research firm. Datasential said insufficient staffing is contributing to the temporary shutdowns, as well as more permanent ones.

To help them survive the winter, independent restaurants are asking customers for support.

“At our current level, this is not a sustainable business model,” Chicago-based Uncommon Ground wrote in a message to restaurant patrons in early January. “We don’t want to be the next restaurant to close forever.”

Some consumers are voluntarily going back to order takeout. A December survey of 752 Americans by DataSense found that 65% planned to increase drive-thru, delivery and takeout ordering in response to the proliferation of the Omicron variant.

Others are eating more at home. Michael Mueller, an airline pilot from Louisville, Ky., said he used to get meals for his family at nearby Chipotle several times a week, but it was limited service and then closed temporarily several weeks ago. “Costco shopping has saved the day,” said Mr. Mueller.

Diners like Betty McDonald said they just want their normal routine back. The mom of six from the San Diego area said she came to Starbucks to wait for the afternoon’s gorgeous Peach Tranquility Tea, but her local locations have closed on a recent afternoon.

“It’s not the end of the world, but it’s definitely disappointing,” she said.

Write Heather Haddon [email protected] . Feather

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