Café Brulé has been coping with a shortage of labor, as well as issues related to COVID-19 for the past year and specifically past three months.
Monica Iverson and James (Jim) Waters are co-owners of Café Brulé and Dakota Brickhouse. Both Iverson and Waters said they have never worked harder in the last 10 years as business owners.
“When we’re short, we’re picking up the slack because no one else is coming in, and no one wants to work for anybody,” Iverson said.
Several workers have been on rotation for the past several weeks without much break.
“We’ve been able to work together and it’s making us stronger as a team, but it does put a lot of stress on us as a team. It makes it where we all feel very tired,” Savannah Vandenberg, Café Brulé staff member, said. “It’s really hard on the staff, especially us who have school schedules and work schedules and families; it’s hard. I think that we’re gonna make it on the top but I think that just can take a little patience with the staff and the community.”
Another staff member, Stephen Yung, said everybody is burned out.
From COVID-19 to being short staffed to shortages on products, keeping afloat has been very difficult for business, Iverson said.
Along with labor shortages, the community also faces shortages on a wide range of products. French fries, onion rings, Alaskan cod, glass bottles, rubber gloves and takeout containers have all been difficult if not next to impossible to get, Waters said. Some suppliers have completely closed.
Along with some suppliers, restaurants have closed. Pizza Hut and Red Steak House both closed within the last year-and-a-half.
Iverson said just as USD students started returning to Vermillion, COVID-19 has started to surge again. This has deeply affected the staff.
“For one thing, I think (the labor shortage) is a nationwide problem,” Iverson said. “I think it started when the government was still doing quite a few monthly, really nice, payouts to people.”
Government aid was given out over some of the first months of the pandemic.
“Everybody went on government aid. They stayed there for a long time. So I mean, I understand why that was necessary. I’m not knocking that,” Iverson said. “A lot of people needed that because they could not work. They recommended isolation and how are you going to pay your bills? So it was just one of those pandemic problems that dominoed and affected everybody.”
Most restaurants have accommodated COVID restrictions.
“We are doing everything we can the CDC guidelines say as far as if you’re not feeling well, don’t come in to work. I would say that right now, at least 95% of our employees are vaccinated,” Iverson said. “The staff is taking things day by day, as it’s hard to gauge what things will be like next week, two weeks from now or next month. It’s unknown whether or not we will be able to keep Café Brulé open past 4 p.m,”
As of now, Café Brulé is open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m.