Drain Of Student Workers Hurts Local Businesses

In the past few weeks “help wanted” posts have begun appearing on The Lanes Bowl & Bistro Facebook page, advertising for year-round servers, food runners, bussers and desk staff. Like many local businesses—particularly those in the food industry—the drain of summer employees in August leaves the restaurant scrambling for new hires.

For Jeffrey Moore, president of the Bobby Byrne Management Corporation that owns The Lanes and three Bobby Byrne’s Restaurant & Pubs in Hyannis, Sandwich and Mashpee, the early departure of high school and college-age workers for school is a “chronic problem.”

“For sports, kids go back a little sooner... they start preparing in early August and usually leave us with one to two weeks to go in summer,” he said.

The restaurants offer workers higher pay if they stay through Labor Day, but it is still common for employees to wait until August to notify managers of their early end dates. Although Mr. Moore cautions his managers to be cognizant of workers’ dependability, rewarding those who stay through the summer, his more than 40 years of experience has shown that the loss is a burden that many business owners must bear annually.

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“We rely on our reputation as a good employer,” he said. “We [give] promotions to full-time workers and make sure that they have full-time, year-round work. That seems to pay off in a good way and a lot of people have been with us for a long time.”

The problem is also familiar to Graham Silliman, the owner of Siena restaurant in Mashpee Commons, and Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour owner Mark L. Lawrence, who both said in separate interviews that there are never enough workers in the summer.

“How can you possibly get staffed enough here in the summer?” Mr. Silliman said. “The demand is so insane.”

The summer may be coming to a close, but business is peaking for the restaurant. Last weekend, he said, Siena set a record of over 500 dinners on a Saturday and over 400 on a Sunday, but while profits soared, restaurant staff could have used extra help.

Both Mr. Silliman and Mr. Lawrence said that they count on current employees to recommend friends and family members, trusting that their connections have similar work ethics. More often than not, the strategy works, but like other business owners, Mr. Silliman said he will try anything to combat the demand for staff each season.

Mr. Lawrence said that he works every day from April through October, and loses over half of his staff at the end of the summer due to early school start dates and training for high school and college sports. Finding year-round workers is not his only issue—the bigger challenge is finding the right workers.

“Kids today don’t know what work is,” he said, adding that potential employees have to pass a one- to four-hour “audition” to work at Polar Cave, during which they shadow a current worker. “More often than not, they don’t make it.”

Every customer should be treated as the most important customer, Mr. Lawrence said, and young workers seldom have the personality or ability to provide this kind of service. He believes that the lack of a work ethic and sense of entitlement are generational traits for which parents are to blame. However, they are traits that are unacceptable in his business.

“I can teach you how to scoop ice cream, but I can’t teach you how to have a personality,” he said.

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