NEWTOWN, Ohio — In April 2020, Randy Reichelderfer shared his frustration, fear and anger as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions closed indoor dining the restaurant he built from the ground up.
Reichelderfer started that restaurant, Urban Grill on Main with family as a food truck in 2012 and grew into the 200-seat sit down eatery at 6623 Main St. in Newtown it is today.
A year later, Reichelderfer said the picture looks somewhat better for Urban Grill on Main as pandemic restrictions continue to lessen.
"We've seen an uptick in business," he said." You know, we're up this week better than last week considerably. So, there is a little glimmer of hope."
But there also are still frustrations and hurdles for the small business owner.
"It's frustrating," Reichelderfer said. "You can't get people to show up. You can't get ... you can't hire people."
Reichelderfer's business partner, Betsy Eicher said she thinks she knows why Urban Grill is seeing a spate of interview and shift no-shows in the kitchen as the business is beginning to pick up again.
"People are being compensated to stay home through stimulus and unemployment and in our opinion, it takes away the urgency of coming out and seeking viable employment," she said.
Understaffing has led to longer wait times between orders and food arriving at tables, Eicher said.
"It's hard to explain to guests why we can't seat an open table or two because we don't have help in the kitchen at this time . . . or enough help in the kitchen," she added.
Reichelderfer said the lack of kitchen staff is despite Urban Grill's above-average wages. Finding employees is also in high demand as more and more people start venturing back out to restaurants and other businesses.
"It doesn't matter if your a restaurant, or if you're a little hardware store, a florist, we're all going through the same thing," Reichelderfer said.
That challenge of staffing is on top of the continuing additional cost of purchasing to-go containers for the restaurant -- which typically focuses on dine-in only.
The price of items such as gloves has also skyrocketed due to demand during the pandemic.
"We always wore gloves in the kitchen, but now you have to wear gloves everywhere," Reichelderfer said. "Let's say a year ago, $65 a case. They went to a $125 a case. Then you add the additional gloves you had to go through for everybody."
Reichelderfer said the additional stresses have exhausted him over the past year.
"Have there been times I wanted to throw in the towel? Yeah," he said.
What's kept the doors at Urban Grill on Main open during the past year though is everything both Reichelderfer and Eicher have invested in the restaurant, according to Reichelderfer.
"We're all in," he said. "We built everything. We own it. We don't rent it. Every square inch has us on it."
Eicher said what has helped her make it through the past year is the same reason why she opened Urban Grill on Main in the first place.
"That part really hasn't changed that much," she said. "We've had to change it a lot over the year, but we're sort of back to just trying to provide what our guests want to eat."
For more information about Urban Grill on Main visit urbangrillonmain.com.