Area restaurants still struggling with understaffing, preparing for return of college students

The Cracked Pillar Pub in downtown Bridgewater.
The Cracked Pillar Pub in downtown Bridgewater.(WHSV)
Published: Aug. 15, 2021 at 7:15 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Restaurants across the valley continue to struggle with understaffing. Harrisonburg and Bridgewater are gearing up for the return of college students, which they hope will fill some open positions.

“On my serving schedule we are down probably about 50 percent, and I’m finding my college employees are having to work five or six days a week, sometimes double shifts on those days and that really takes a toll on them,” said Patti Landes, owner of Cracked Pillar Pub in Bridgewater.

Cracked Pillar has had to shorten their menu and make other big changes to adapt to their lack of staffing.

“I have a lovely event room upstairs, I can’t staff it so I can’t schedule events, people call every day to wanna book their parties, their rehearsal dinners, gatherings that they have and I can’t. I have to say no. I’m lucky to staff my downstairs,” said Landes.

Other restaurants, like Vinny’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria in Harrisonburg, are so understaffed they’ve had to change their schedules.

“We had to close on Mondays, sometimes we close at 8 o’clock just because we don’t have enough people,” said Hector Alexander-Medrano, part-owner of Vinny’s.

For Cracked Pillar, the next few weeks will likely be even tougher as they lose four local student employees who are going away to college.

“They’ve really been what held us together this summer and so we’re really gonna be short when they go off the schedule at the end of next week,” said Patti Landes. “And then that makes it really hard because even if I hired ten people today, to have somebody ready in week, it’s impossible.”

Vinny’s Italian Grill estimates the return of JMU students to the area will increase their businesses by around 40 percent. They hope that it will also bring the some much needed new employees.

“We actually have three JMU students that were here through summer time, so they were helping me a lot and I’m grateful,” said Hector Alexander-Medrano.

Vinny’s is offering new employees bonuses and flexible hours to attract some help. They say their biggest need is for more servers while Cracked Pillar’s biggest need is for line cooks.

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