Staycation tourist boom and staffing issues leave restaurants dealing with 'impatient' and 'nasty' customers

A boom in bookings over the staycation summer and issues with staff recruitment have left a Yorkshire business regularly dealing with “impatient” customers that have been “mean” and “nasty” to staff.

Francois Strydom, who owns the Fat Chef company which operates restaurants in Malton and Helmsley, said his locations are serving as many as 300 meals a day, with bookings continuing to look busy into the future.

Issues with anti-social behaviour and staff recruitment and retainment have been seen industry-wide this season, an expert agreed, with some even now offering bonuses to keep people for longer.

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Mr Strydom told The Yorkshire Post that the business has been “busy” but really “thinly spread” at times, as the staff struggle to keep up with demand.

A person on Whitby Beach in Yorkshire, pictured March 2021 (PA/Danny Lawson)

“The biggest issue is staffing,” he said.

“I think everybody’s finding it really hard at the moment with not being able to get people to work.

“Just getting the people in the first place, there’s a very high shortage of chefs at the moment. There’s a very high shortage of waiters and service staff at the moment.

“But the biggest problem we’re finding is, we’re really busy and we’re really thinly spread. Luckily, we’ve got a core team which is quite a well trained core team so we retain most of our staff. But also we always require more people over the summer. It’s been hard this summer, actually.”

He explained that usually there would be three or four employees on the floor of the restaurant able to serve customers, but now this is down to two “just because there is nobody else to do it”.

This combined with the “influx of customers” is “creating a bit of chaos”, he said, with many being “impatient” with service when they arrive.

“Some people understand some people are very understanding,” Mr Strydom said.

“Other people [...] some people can be really mean and nasty and just get up and walk out.

“We’ve had people just get up and walk out because we can’t get to them within the two minutes after they sit down.”

Despite the hiccups, the restaurateur is glad to be trading after having had to shut up shop for so long during the pandemic, adding: “It’s been nice to be open after being closed for so long, and it’s nice to see the restaurants busy and people in them.”

Susan Briggs, director of the Tourism Network based in North Yorkshire, recognised the “ strong demand for pubs, cafes and restaurants” over this season, but added “it’s been challenging for hospitality managers who have had to reduce capacity for social distancing, and who have had many recruitment challenges”.

Ms Briggs reported that bad behaviour by guests has been seen across a number of businesses, with customers who have been “more demanding and even abusive when they can’t get a table in a restaurant or have unrealistic expectations of service”.