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Restaurants Wrestle with Staffing Shortages and Increased Demand
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Monday, September 6, 2021
 

Editor’s Note: This past week the Conversations with Exceptional Women Conference had to pare back one of its lunches for attendees because the caterer that normally supplies the soup, sandwiches and salads was too short-staffed to meet the demand. The Sun Valley Club served meals on paper plates this summer to eliminate the labor involved with washing dishes. And some restaurateurs say locals are going to be in for a surprise this fall when they find their favorite restaurants closed temporarily to give staff a break after an uber-busy summer. Eye on Sun Valley’s Kate Daly talked with local restaurant owners a few weeks ago to find out what’s up.

STORY AND PHOTO BY KATE DALY

 Rumors are flying around about local restaurants and bars closing. Some of the rumors are true; others, not.

At Sun Valley Resort, The Ram stopped serving meals on July 4, according to an assistant manager at Village Station, because the restaurant was “short on staff.”

The bar is still open to serve drinks. She says restaurant employees have been reassigned to work at the resort’s Sun Valley Club, Konditorei and Village Station.

She says The Ram restaurant will reopen in November if enough J-1 visas are procured to bring in seasonal staff members from abroad. This summer some of the resort’s temporary employees come from Jamaica and Romania, she said.

Cristina Ceccatelli Cook explains she closed Cristina’s Restaurant in Ketchum for 10 days in the first part of July “because I had no staff.”

The doors are now shut on Mondays and Tuesdays since she doesn’t have enough staff to stay open seven days a week, and she stopped doing catering during COVID.

“If I have a wedding, it’s a question mark. I would have to close for three to four days,” due to staffing, she says

As she turns 70 people ask: Are you retiring? Her response: “Eventually, yeah.”

Owner Keith Perry of Perry’s in Ketchum figures he is working about 80 hours a week these days, and observes, “a lot of people are working overtime.”

He estimates his business has increased by more than 30 percent this summer over last. Problem is he usually has 40 employees, and right now he’s operating with only 33. That has forced him to cut back closing time from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“You just can’t hire anybody, especially young kids,” he laments.

He usually hires teenagers who come back year after year, but this summer he lost three 16-year-olds to construction jobs where he says they can make $25 an hour.

The lack of affordable housing is one factor causing staffing shortages. Perry points to another: “There’s the same number of workers, and there’s a lot of work because more people have moved here.”

Naturally, more people want and need more services.

“The bright side,” he says, “is we should be profitable.”

Meanwhile, for weeks a sign has been posted outside Mason Family Provisions right next door to the family’s Town Square Tavern in Ketchum saying the carryout market is “closed for rest and renovations. We will open when we have enough staff. We are working on it.”

Amidst all of these closings and cutbacks, the Wood River Valley has also seen some recent openings.

In June, A Taste of Thai in Ketchum moved to a new location on South Main Street and changed its name to Ida Thai. Along with carryout, the restaurant offers lunch and dinner on weekdays, and dinner only on Saturdays.

In early July, entrepreneur and chef Sanu Chakraborty opened Saffron Indian Cuisine on Walnut in Ketchum. The original Saffron opened in Twin Falls in 2019, the same year he got married.

Chakraborty interned as a chef at Sun Valley Resort. His He and his wife, Rosmery Servua, and he fell for each other at a $Night at Whiskey Jacques so Ketchum holds a special place in their hearts.

 

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