Toughest challenge yet for hospo staff

Hutch & Co staff have had to move to takeaway only recently to combat a reduction in available staff. Pictured Brett Roessler and Geraldine Lizzi. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS. 254880_06

By Mikayla van Loon

Hospitality staff, who have already been through many challenges over the last two years are urging he community to be kind and patient as they face the next challenge – staff shortages.

As more and more people test positive to Covid-19 and are thrust into isolation, two popular cafes in Lilydale have had to close or change the way they operate because of dwindling available staff.

“I made the tough decision to move towards takeaway only because a number of key members of staff were having to isolate awaiting test results and I didn’t want to continue to run that business with a smaller number of people servicing the same number of patrons,” Hutch and Co director and owner Liza Dellisola said.

While the community support has remained strong, Ms Dellisola said she can tell patrons are growing tired of the continued disturbances to normal life and they are disappointed when they are not able to dine-in.

“This time around the community is growing tired of it themselves. They’re all now affected in one way or another by this. It’s not just somebody else who’s got it. They’re in the same boat with us,” she said.

“So it kind of feels like it’s solidifying the sentiments but not in a great way because it’s just a lot of frustration.”

This kind of frustration has boiled to the surface for some members in the community and has sadly been taken out on cafe staff at Gracious Grace.

Owner Emma Ivany said her staff have encountered abuse throughout the entirety of the pandemic but nowhere near as bad as it has been in the last couple of weeks, with behaviour she described as “disgusting.”

“We had to close because I ran out of healthy staff and I also had Covid so I was sick in bed. A woman basically lost her mind at the kitchen window to my staff because it said on the internet that we were open,” Ms Ivany said.

“She was that aggressive towards them, the girls said she was spitting her words at them.”

Having not updated the website with a note about being closed because she was sick, Ms Ivany said she couldn’t believe the attitude some people have had during this time.

But unfortunately it didn’t come as a surprise to Ms Ivany having dealt with this kind of behaviour all throughout the pandemic.

“It has got progressively worse. After the first lockdown when we reopened people were so entitled and just wanted everything now. People forgot how to speak to people. There was no please and thank you,” she said.

“I’ve been in this industry for 25 years now and in the last two years, I’ve had to kick people out of my cafe for poor behavior. I’ve never had to do that before.”

Already trying to cope with running a cafe with reduced staff to service what would normally be a busy January period, as well as stay financially stable, Ms Ivany said people just need to have some consideration for what is going on behind the scenes.

“I’ve got to do the right thing too, I can’t let myself work when they are sick, so I have to close. So basically, it’s like a lockdown but without financial support from anyone this time, so you’ve just got to get through it.”

While the situation has been different for Ms Dellisola, she too said the lack of support from governing bodies is making things difficult.

“I didn’t expect that once we were all vaccinated or 90 per cent of the population was vaccinated that we were going to still be in this boat,” she said.

“It seems as though this is the worst it’s ever been to be frank. There is no government support. There’s more people at home not coming out because they’re in isolation or quarantining and on top of that, there’s a chronic shortage of human resources in this state.”

Although shutting down or doing takeaway only is not ideal, Ms Dellisola said she doesn’t want to put unnecessary pressure on her staff to service a full cafe or compromise the delivery of service because the cafe is understaffed.

A message that did come across strongly from both Ms Ivany and Ms Dellisola was to be kind to staff right across the board as they deal with a very challenging time.

“I think that we all need to remember we are in this together and a little bit of kindness towards a fellow human goes a very long way,” Ms Dellisola said.

“When people come to the cafe, just have some patience. We love our customers. Our customers are special, but you just need to have some patience at the moment and be nice to my staff because they’re nice to you,” Ms Ivany said.