Planning a holiday party or family gathering?
Book early. And expect service delays and higher prices as restaurants and catering halls struggle with labor shortages and an overall breakdown in the supply chain.
Customers might be ready for the return of holiday parties and family gatherings, but the restaurant industry is still struggling, said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
"If the customer is looking for wide restaurant availability and reservations, that could be a problem," said Barr. "If you’re expecting lots of things on the menu, that could be a problem, too."
Restaurants and catering halls say they'll continue to provide great food, though some will not host as many parties and could limit reservations around the holidays.
For three centuries, the King George Inn has been serving food during special occasions along the Delaware River in Bristol. (The place boasts a visit by George Washington during his travel through Pennsylvania as a military officer.)
Staffing has never been so difficult for the historic property, said Robert Strasser, general manager. “We’re not dialing back, but, as an owner-operator, I’m just doing three peoples jobs right now."
He also struggles to maintain inventory.
“Across the board, the supply chain is broken,” Strasser said. "I have problems getting everything right now. It’s everything from Coors Light, to some wines, to a cut of pork.”
The issues affecting supply chains are linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marko Bastl, the director of the Center for Supply Chain Management at Marquette University told USA Today the pandemic is unique because it has impacted both supply and demand. Some manufacturers still aren't operating at the levels they reached before the pandemic.
The pandemic also affected companies focused on logistics, such as warehousing to store items that travel overseas and transportation like trucks and trains to deliver them across the country, said Bastl.
Couple that with demand — there was a lot of buying while folks stayed home during the pandemic — the country is feeling the impacts of the "perfect storm" of disruption in the global supply chain.
The impacts have been felt nationwide, and Bucks businesses aren't immune.
In Bristol Township, Georgine’s has long served as restaurant, banquet hall, and caterer. Long known for its chicken breast topped with crab and provolone, Georgine’s recently had to update its menu to reflect the availability of some products and the rising cost of items such as steaks and seafoods.
“The hardest problem now is finding help,” said Rosie Reifsneider, who oversees banquet hall reservations. “Normally, I would go into Thanksgiving with 21 people working.
"Now, I’m going to have 16," Reifsneider said. "Depending on my staffing, I’m going to have to cut it off.”
She could only shrug at another lost opportunity. Georgine's was closed to in-person dining during the last holiday season because of COVID-19.
“We were lucky because a lot of people know us, and so we survived," Reifsneider said. "But a lot of other restaurants won’t survive something like this.”
Remodeled in 2012 after a fire, the Plumsteadville Inn is already turning away business, said restauranteur Angelo Evangelista. The historic property on Easton Road has long hosted family gatherings, weddings and other events.
“This is that time of year when you make your money,” Evangelista said. “We’re still going to be busy, but we’re also turning away business because we don’t have the staff. We can’t run an upstairs banquet room plus a 300-seat dining room downstairs with the people we have.”
The owner-operators of all three establishments ask that patrons be patient and kind with those who are working in retail and restaurants this holiday season.
Supply chain issues and labor shortages are not the fault of the server or staff. If mistreated, the worker might quit, contributing to the labor shortage.
Contact reporter James McGinnis at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bucks County restaurants feeling impact of supply chain, labor issues on holiday plans