Briscola’s Italian restaurant owner Gianni Guglielmin calls it “COVID Excuse Fatigue” – customers are growing frustrated with delays and staff shortages and resorting to abusive employees.
While Gianni said COVID hadn’t impacted the demand for tables, he had witnessed an increase in verbal attacks on staff who were already massively overworked.
“This is becoming a worrying trend in the hospitality industry as customers have apparently lost patience with the excuse of understaffing and are not accepting slower or poorer service.”
Still, the ACT government’s decision to allow close contacts of people with COVID to avoid quarantine if they show no symptoms from Wednesday would be a welcome reprieve for businesses.
“There is 100% relief regarding the rule change. The feeling is that this is long overdue and will help all industries. »
Gianni said he and other restaurant owners were exhausted from dealing with constant staffing issues, but also from trying to manage customer expectations around those shortages.
Staff who bore the brunt of “COVID Excuse Fatigue” were often inexperienced, casual workers who “did their best under the circumstances, in often chaotic situations, trying to explain a situation and apologizing when delays were happening”.
“At Briscola, we have posted signs and messages on our website asking for patience and kindness and our signs mention zero tolerance for abuse.”
Still, Gianni said there had been a number of verbal attacks on staff and “we have examples of customers stepping in to offer assistance to young staff in an abusive situation – and an increase in bad reviews in line”.
However, the news was not all bad, “paradoxically, we saw the best of the clientele with an increase in tips and record attendance! “.
Braddon’s United Retailers and Traders (BURT) represents approximately 300 business operations and more than 3,500 people employed in Braddon’s private sector.
Spokesman Kel Watt said the relaxation of isolation rules would bring “immediate relief” from Wednesday, but could not revive pre-pandemic life in the compound.
“Many businesses in the Braddon precinct are reporting a drop of around 70% in trading levels since the start of the pandemic and 21 businesses have closed in Lonsdale and Mort streets since February last year. Others are considering selling and others are trying to sell and at least one business owner has had to sell their home to avoid bankruptcy,” Kel said.
Next month, in its annual business experience survey, Kel said BURT would specifically address the issue of staff abuse, to find out how pressures had built up on traders.
He noted that there had been several instances of violence on Lonsdale Street, but that was during anti-vaxxer rallies with the vocal minority of interstate protesters seeking to “stir up trouble”.
The longer-term impacts of COVID-related behavior on staff would be examined in the survey as well as the overall impact of the pandemic on business viability. He said the photo was unlikely to be pretty.
“No local business owner thinks they can ever make up for the loss of income and opportunity. Extending loans, new loans and selling assets to maintain a business in the hopes that they future, are being reported at all levels. Multiple relationship breakdowns directly attributable to financial stress have also been reported. There is a very real and massive human cost to the pandemic that has not been seen, felt or even recognized by many in the public sector, or by government leaders,” Kel said.
Co-owner of the Ainslie IGA family business, Manuel Xyrakis, said he had never experienced such staffing stress.
Manuel said he was relieved to report that there had been no abusive behavior towards his staff in particular, but that customers had to queue for longer periods and buy substitute products when the shelves could not be replenished due to staff shortages or supply chain issues.
“I think everyone has been patient enough all things considered, but the costs to the business have been horrendous and we’re all very, very tired.”
Manuel reported that managers like him worked through the night on multiple instances and spent entire days non-stop in order to cover holes in the listings. He had had 50 employees infected since Christmas Day, and many more when they were identified as close contacts.
While the changes to the contact quarantine regime would reduce the impact on staffing, Manuel also expressed some concern that the changes could lead to an increase in the number of cases.
“Who needs to know if a close contact actually develops COVID? It could be a very difficult winter for all of us.
“I always want to put the safety of my customers first and I am very aware of the number of elderly people who come to shop with us. I think they will have to continue to wear their masks and be very careful.