The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Hospitality businesses in Sonoma County face staffing crisis


    In response to the abrupt closures, state-mandated orders, financial hardships and public health orders, local Sonoma County restaurants and hotels are experiencing staffing shortages, but remain determined to keep businesses open as much as they can for the public and to maintain financial stability.

    Restaurant managers and owners are focusing to keep businesses open at all costs in order to sustain the financial income that was lost within the past year.

    A study conducted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) states that the total shortfall in restaurant sales throughout the U.S. likely surpassed $120 billion during the beginning of the pandemic.

    With these challenging obstacles, establishments in Sonoma County with hospitality services remain under staffed which has resulted in transforming the dynamics of their work environment.

    Marketing and Communications Manager at Vintners Resort in Santa Rosa, Tyfanni Sedgwick, explains that the pandemic’s effects have caused every staff member to be adaptable and assume all kinds of different positions at the resort in order to maintain their services. 

    “On the internal front, people here and managers have scrambled because we are not fully staffed and we are relying on teamwork,” Sedgwick stated, “We had to pivot to become a team and we covered jobs that we normally didn’t do. We had to step up and we got a perspective of what it takes to fully run every single part of this business.”

    Sedgwick explained in a phone interview that although the restaurant and resort experienced constant closures and reopenings throughout the year, they feel ready and prepared to open their extra services such as their spa and are currently booking wedding events for the future. 

    Meanwhile, Chef Mateo Granados, owner and head chef of Mateo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg, shared his experiences of becoming self-reliant with his business and is making efforts to persevere through the pandemic’s fall outs. 

    “We have been doing as much as we can and it’s tough. I constantly work long hours every single day because workers are leaving,” Granados said, “I’m not complaining because really I love what I do, but it’s hard and housing with the cost of living for people is hard because of how expensive it is over here.”

    Both Sedgwick and Granados shared how the challenges of the pandemic has not only affected the workplace environment, but has impacted some of their long-time workers to relocate into other states due to the more accessible opportunities outside of California or financial hardships.

    “One manager did move to the Southern part of the country and it was really hard on us [the company] because they were so dedicated and had been working with us for 20 years,” Sedgwick stated. 

    “There’s not as many employees, people don’t want to work and most people have already moved out of the state because they can’t afford it anymore and it really affected the business,” Granados said. 

    According to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle written by Soleil Ho, she states, “I don’t blame restaurant workers for not wanting to go back to that world when they have other options.”

    Other local companies have experienced similar obstacles as well, but have taken different measures to keep their company flowing with customers.

    The Montage Hotel in Healdsburg, which recently opened at the beginning of this year, is currently receiving a higher number of guests than expected leaving the limited number of staff members feeling weary.

    Riley MacPherson, an employee at the hotel, has experienced the hotel’s increasing demand first-hand as he was one of the first employees hired in fall 2020. 

    “It has been such a fast and massive jump in demand that it truly caught many off guard and we’re hiring as much and fast as we can right now to get us to keep up with the level of need by guests and visitors,” MacPherson stated, “But in the moment’s notice events are on, weddings are on and (within reason and guidelines) we have a spread out team of less than 10 that need 15 more members working full-time and more part-time staff to truly carry out the events we’re hosting now.”

    A manager from another local Healdsburg restaurant, who wanted to remain anonymous to preserve her standing at her job, said that out of 15 years in the restaurant industry, the last year has been the hardest by far. She says that beyond sanitation and hygiene protocols the lack of staff has made work more stressful than usual. 

    She also described the difficulty she has had filling open positions at the restaurant, “I currently have 7 job openings for servers, bussers, bartenders, line cooks, prep cooks and dishwashers. I actually had 5 interviews scheduled in the last two days: only one showed, and only one of the others called to let me know she wouldn’t make it. We are even offering a signing bonus and offer benefits to full time employees, and this is still happening.”

    She added, “I’m not sure if people have gotten comfortable on unemployment and lost interest to work, or if the market has exploded due to the more relaxed tier changes, but it’s extremely hard to fill job openings.” 

    The success of her restaurant is a silver lining on the challenging times she’s faced since reopening in February. The restaurant has a large built-in patio which has made adapting to COVID requirements attainable. 

    “We have been growing in popularity and have been busy more days than not, which is awesome…We are expecting to be even busier this summer with our close proximity to the Russian River, downtown Healdsburg and local wineries, so the extra staff is much needed.”

    With summer approaching and travel restrictions dwindling across the state, Sonoma County restaurants are in a precarious position where demand for experiences are higher than the amount of staff available. Each of these local Sonoma County establishments mentioned in this article have their respective websites accessible to anyone interested in supporting their business, searching for jobs and inquiring more information. 

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