Being a restaurant worker myself, I have experienced many negative experiences directly stemming from the pandemic. Myself experiencing these as well as working with others going through a similar situation, had me ask many questions regarding why this was the case and to learn more about each individual’s pandemic experience. From doing research and interviews, I have come to the conclusion that restaurant workers have been one of the most negatively affected working groups during the pandemic due to the fact that it affects every aspect of their job.
I began working at a restaurant named Reynolds Tavern back in July 2020. At this point the pandemic was in full swing and I was going into the workplace with no prior experience or knowledge of what working in a restaurant was like pre-covid. Having no prior experience, I got used to our restaurants guidelines pretty. As the pandemic went on I kept working at Reynolds Tavern, I heard stories from the owners, managers, and other employees about working at the restaurant before the pandemic. This, and my experience working in food services is what sparked my interest in doing my project on this topic. When beginning my interviews I chose to interview one of my fellow waiters Matthew or Matt Trujillo. He, like myself, began working at the restaurant after the pandemic had already started. However, I felt like our shared personal experiences would be beneficial to hear. When interviewing him, as well as some of the other employees, I found that one of the main concerns for working at a restaurant was the risk of getting and giving people covid. For me, it was the same way. Because of some customers not accepting the mask rule and not taking social distancing or the rules seriously, I and many others were worried about working at a restaurant. For one of my coworkers Stephanie, who works as a bartender. Her main concern was about her mother getting covid as she is ninety-one years old. What surprised me the most about these interviews was when I asked one of the owners, Marylin, about what was the hardest thing she had to do at the beginning of the pandemic. Her answer was telling the employees they were closing and seeing them walk away. This shocked me as I thought her primary worry would be towards the business itself and being able to reopen. These responses showed me just how much restaurant workers care about their customers and how much the owners care for their employees.
Another one of the main issues I was focusing on was the wage or tips for waiters and waitresses during covid. I myself have had experiences with enforcing covid guidelines and was met with a very small, no tip or the customers just leaving all together. Because of Reynolds being very strict with the covid guidelines in order to protect the staff and the customers, many customers reacted with negativity in where they wanted the full freedom they had before the pandemic. When interviewing one of the managers, Brian, he told me of an experience in which he felt this. He said that multiple times it was the larger groups that caused the issues due to the fact that part of our social distancing guidelines was not allowing a table more than six. This was met with a lot of pushback from customers and what shocked me the most was the most pushback was from customers who were also legislators. Being in Annapolis, Maryland next to the state capital, there is always a constant stream of legislators coming in for legislative sessions. It was with those groups of people as well that caused issues in that, from Brian’s account, felt like they knew the rules better than the restaurant workers and felt they were privileged to do whatever they wanted. This was something that people had a problem with even though it was both the workers and the restaurant owners who were the most affected by these new guidelines and mandates. Since Reynolds Tavern is a relatively small restaurant, in order to successfully social distance the tables when reopening for indoor dining was to completely get rid of some. This took a toll on the workers because there were less tables, and less of an opportunity for the employees to make more money.
From all of the research I did with looking up and reading articles and journals, as well as the interviews, I found that the main reason for why restaurant workers were the most negatively affected by the pandemic was because it affected every part of their job and the restaurant. We as a whole lost the ability to make more money due to social distancing, enforcing covid-guidelines, shut downs, and even people causing issues. In not wanting to adhere to them in order for their safety and the employees safety. These are some of the many reasons for why restaurant workers were one of the most negatively affected working groups during the pandemic.