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Frontline Restaurant Employees Adjust to New Work Environment Amid COVID-19

By David High

Photo: Bev Goodwin/Empty chairs at empty tables / CC

Adjusting to the new rules and regulations at restaurant jobs during the Coronavirus has not been easy according to many frontline employees around the Birmingham metro, but some said they have found ways to cope with the strenuous changes.

“These new rules weren’t difficult to overcome, just a bit annoying more than anything,” said Natalia Duran, a server at the Half Shell Oyster House.

Duran said she had to adjust to all the safety precautions and new rules that have had to be implemented like wearing a mask the entire shift, limited seating and the difficulty in getting adequate tips.

“We are at half capacity so where I would usually have a six-table section, I only have three, and on a busy night, we might have a two hour wait, even though there is plenty of seats and space,” Duran said. “Like a domino effect, hungry and impatient guests tend to tip less even though it’s not our fault we have to be at half capacity.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Governor Kay Ivey extended Alabama’s mask mandate through Oct. 2, which requires everyone to wear a mask when in public settings. This mandate includes employees.

Hannah Weems, a hostess, said she and her coworkers knew working during a pandemic would be risky but they still had to live and make ends meet.

“We knew there was a greater risk of potentially contracting the virus just because we were constantly touching plates and silverware that had been used, but we still had to pay bills,” Weems said.

Weems said to-go ordering was very popular toward the beginning of the pandemic but as people get more comfortable going out in public, she said, in-house guests began to pick up.

“When I first started working in the pandemic, we had way more to-go orders to the point it was a juggling act to keep them all correct, organize all the receipts and take all of the orders,” Weems said. “But, as time went on, and the world become used to COVID, there were more and more people that wanted to dine in.”

The restaurant business lost $120 billion in the first couple months of the pandemic, according to ABC News.

Alex Dyar, a server at Cajun Steamer, said she had to find other ways to make money while continuing to serve at the restaurant. Dyar said her income had dropped because of the lack of customers which caused her check to be smaller and caused her to miss out on tips.

“I have had to find other sources of income plus working full time as a server and going to school,” Dyar said.

Dyar said DoorDash and other food delivery services have taken over the food industry during the pandemic because many individuals would rather stay home and have their food brought to them.

“DoorDash has created less opportunities for us as servers to make money but since I’m not making the money I would normally I actually had to sign up for DoorDash and become a driver,” Dyar said.

Edited by Hannah Warren & Ryan Michaels

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Made By Students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham