Food industry workers pivot during COVID-19

Sara+Brennan+stands+behind+the+counter+at+The+Commissary%2C+a+Dickie+Brennan+and+Co.+central+kitchen%2C+market%2C+and+restaurant+on+September+5.+Opened+in+April+of+2020%2C+the+staff+of+The+Commissary+quickly+encountered+unprecedented+challenges+in+the+restaurant+industry.+Photo+credit%3A+Michael+Bauer

Sara Brennan stands behind the counter at The Commissary, a Dickie Brennan and Co. central kitchen, market, and restaurant on September 5. Opened in April of 2020, the staff of The Commissary quickly encountered unprecedented challenges in the restaurant industry. Photo credit: Michael Bauer

Alexander Mccall

Months of restaurants and businesses closing and reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic have left many service workers wondering what comes next.

With the extension of Phase 2, many establishments and workers are adapting to the changes.

Richard Brennan of The Commissary, a project of The Dickie Brennan & Co. Family, that opened in April. 30, said he is still lucky during this time of mass hardship.

“Without a doubt, we have been very blessed to have opened in April. I know so many industry workers who live from paycheck to paycheck and work multiple jobs. In a place like New Orleans, where the majority of employees work industry jobs, times have been challenging.”

The Commissary serves as a middle-man supplier for the other Dickie Brennan & Co. Family restaurants all across downtown, a market, and an eatery. As the business took off on a slow start, Richard Brennan discovered a greater sense of community and work-drive to help fuel the company’s productivity.

“We’re doing anything and everything we used to do, but more than ever, it is about people coming together. This pandemic has seriously put my business mind to work. We, as a company, have to learn how to cut our labor costs as far down as possible. We have to constantly look at other costs and ahead at our variable costs like the perishable things. This time has also allowed us to slow down to do relatively fun projects that create a lot of interest in our culinary teams like connecting with different farmers and fishermen.”

Business owners are not the only ones who have had to pivot due to COVID-19. Kennedy Horton, an undecided sophomore at Loyola, has had her share of COVID related problems while working as a hostess and server-in-training at Superior Grill.

“Due to our restrictions of half capacity, there is always going to be a longer waitlist. As well, scheduling workers has been difficult, but at the same time, you can not have more than nine servers on the floor at a time,” Horton said. “COVID-19 has turned into a political issue, so have people’s opinions.”

“We encourage people to wear masks. However, we can not legally turn customers down if they do not have a mask on or socially distant from each other. People will argue about waiting outside and do not follow social distancing guidelines,” she said.

With extra guidelines for everyone to follow, Horton said her job has become even more complicated.

“Working at a restaurant is already stressful enough. Along with COVID-19, it adds another layer. I have to make sure the servers are satisfied, my boss is, and most importantly, customers all the while making sure people are not breaking guidelines in the restaurant.”