Some restaurant staff are at breaking point amid tough working conditions. One former worker says men frequently yelled at her over mask mandates.

Server at a restaurant in California
A server clears a table as patrons dine outdoors. Watchara Phomicinda/MediaNews Group/The Press-Enterprise/Getty Images
  • Restaurant staff are continuing to struggle with the labor shortage and pandemic working conditions.
  • “Every cook I know is overworked,” Brandon Medina, a line cook, told The Seattle Times.
  • One ex-worker experienced a breakout of stress-induced eczema due to tougher working conditions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A severe labor shortage, combined with the impact of enforcing COVID-19 restrictions, has left restaurant workers struggling to cope.

The Seattle Times reported that many workers in the city’s eateries are exhausted. They’re taking on extra work to counteract staff shortages, but also have nobody to cover shifts when they want to take a day off.

Workers across the country have been leaving their jobs at high rates. About 75% of independent restaurants said they were struggling to attract staff. Some have had to temporarily close because of staff shortages, Insider’s Kevin Shalvey reported.

Brandon Medina, a Seattle line cook at Ethan Stowell Restaurants’ rotating pop-ups, told The Seattle Times: “Most days, I’m really over it. Every cook I know is overworked. Every cook I know is tired.”

Some days, Medina and his team deal with 60 to-go preorders before dinner service even starts.

Like many other restaurants in the US, Stowell’s pop-ups are short-staffed due to a labor crunch in the sector, according to the outlet.

Tough working conditions as such have prompted some restaurants in Seattle and across the country to increase wages to attract workers as a result. But for some people, wage hikes don’t make up for such difficult working conditions.

The impact of the labor shortage has led to rude behaviour from customers in some cases. But customers are also lashing out over ongoing pandemic rules, including mask mandates.

Desi Caswell, a former server and host at the Capitol Hill Italian restaurant Spinasse for five years, said working in a pandemic became too stressful. She left her job in May.

“I had adult males yell at me because they didn’t want to wear a mask or because our policies were too harsh,” she told The Seattle Times.

Caswell said she frequently faced these types of situations after Spinasse reopened for dine-in service.

Incidents in which customers refuse to wear face masks continue to make headlines, as the Delta variant surges.

In August, an Indiana woman who says she suffered from asthma filed a lawsuit against the CDC and retailers Krispy Kreme and Sephora over their mask requirements.

The claimant, Jennifer Reinoehl, told Insider’s Kevin Shalvey: “I’ve been horribly discriminated against and not been allowed to enter a lot of stores,” who suffers from asthma, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I’ve been harassed.”

Both the White House and the CDC have said repeatedly that masks are one part of an effective defense against the spread of COVID-19.