Only 5 out of hundreds of restaurants said 'yes' to Newport News Restaurant Week, all due to labor shortages

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Posted at 4:50 PM, Dec 21, 2021

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News Restaurant Week is canceled for January 2022. It’s a lost opportunity for businesses trying to get folks to sample their cuisine.

Organizers blame it on labor shortages andsupply chain issues. But it also means that the struggling restaurant industry is taking another hit.

The manager at Burger Theory told News 3 reporter Kelsey Jones they're trying to get a sense of normalcy again, and sadly, for the number of people Restaurant Week brings in, it would've been too much for his current staff to handle.

Daniel Plott, director of food and beverage for the Holiday Inn, said, "It's unfortunate that we have to not participate because of this, but in a small sense, there is a bit of relief."

The Newport News Hospitality Association made the decision to cancel Restaurant Week because organizers said they reached out to 300 restaurants, but only five agreed to participate because of supply chain issues and labor shortages.

"Pre-pandemic, we had about 15 to 20 servers, and as far as line cooks and chefs and the culinary team, we had about 7-10 depending on the season. Right now as it stands today, we have eight servers and five cooks, and it's challenging for our staff," said Plott.

However, that's not the only problem.

Elizabeth Parker, Newport News Hospitality Association president, said, "We had many of our restaurants contact us and told us they would love to be part of it, but they felt at this time, especially with the new variant, it wasn't realistic. There were concerns, too, from a financial standpoint as well."

Parker tells News 3 she's working with city leaders to generate more funding for the hospitality industry.

In the meantime, managers like Plott are thinking of creative ways to stay afloat.

"Third-party apps was a huge success for myself and I'm sure many other restaurants, and that's what keeping us afloat during the pandemic. I think that's going to be one of the many ways of the future," said Plott.

News 3 spoke with a local economist, and he said one of the ways to tackle labor shortages on the Peninsula is to raise wages.

Dr. Bob McNab, economist at Old Dominion University, said, "Restaurants who pay higher wages are not reporting difficulties in attracting new workers and keeping old workers. We're seeing extraordinary turnover in restaurants with uncertain hours and low wages. So, we're going to see a shakeout in Newport News, just like we're going to see a shakeout across Hampton Roads and Virginia."

News 3 asked staff members at Burger Theory what families can do to support them, especially with the holidays here, and they tell us just to have patience.