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Downtown Bend restaurants still struggling to hire enough cooks for the kitchen

(Update: adding video, new info, comments from restaurant owner, food truck manager)

Owner of Sidelines Bar & Grill on Wall Street says they have fewer than half desired number of cooks

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Looser COVID-19 restrictions have led to customers filling the seats inside restaurants once again. In fact, many restaurants, such as the Sidelines Bar & Grill in downtown Bend, are seeing a spike in revenue better than before the pandemic.

However, many of those same restaurants are also struggling to feed all of those hungry customer, due to a shortage of cooks across the region, part of a broader, record hiring squeeze.

"Tell me when you're coming in, ready to start working as a cook for me,” Sidelines Owner Trevor Kalberg joked with a customer on Tuesday.

Although it’s not much of a joke.

"Cooks right now are the biggest problem in town,” Kalberg told NewsChannel 21. “I know a lot of the different restaurants are even having to shut down a couple days a week right now, because they're not able to field a full kitchen staff."

In a perfect world, Kalberg would like to have 15 cooks on staff. Right now, they have seven. On Tuesday, they only had one to serve the entire lunch crowd.

"He’s working 10 hours of overtime this week, just so he can keep it going,” Kalberg said, referring to his lone cook.

That's even forced Kalberg himself to step back into the kitchen, for the first time since 2008.

“Which I'm always happy to do for our customers,” he said. “However, I'd rather not."

Fewer cooks means fewer options. The original dinner menu at Sidelines Bar & Grill is a few pages long, with more than 80 items to choose from. The restaurant's current dinner menu has been reduced to one page, with just 14 items.

Sidelines does offer competitive pay, at $18 an hour, plus tips. So if that's the case, why is this happening?

Kalberg said there are a few reasons: Some people are making that same amount while sitting at home through unemployment benefits, current wages don't match the housing market, and, food trucks are stealing some of the talent.

However, that last reason was shot down by Justin Halvorsen, Barrio's food truck manager. He said they're having struggles of their own.

"We definitely have our own issues with the food carts and finding staff,” Halvorsen said. “We're super-excited about having the customers back, but there's that little bit of -- we don't know what we're getting into.”

Well, what they’re getting into is a busy summer season. To deal with that, Kalberg and Halvorsen are preaching patience to their customers.

Bend / Business / Central Oregon / Coronavirus / Local News / News
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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.

Comments

63 Comments

    1. Interesting point, I’m guessing his staff hasn’t seen a bump in wages. This guy is dealing with Sunriver who is willing to pay $25/hr for housekeeping. Hard to fill open positions if you’re not competitive with your wages!

        1. You think people aren’t willing to drive 20mins for $5-$10/hr differential? Of course they are! The owner in the story is also competing with all the fast food chains in town which all pay ~$15hr. Businesses that NEED to be fully staffed are paying to get personnel.

    2. where does it say the sidelines owner is making more money than before the pandemic? It says they are seeing a spike in revenue, but it says nothing about costs. seeing a spike in revenue doesn’t mean your making more money. profit is what is left of that revenue after expenses like food cost, building rent, employee wages, taxes etc. so try to learn some more about economics and how business works and get more information before assuming that they are making more money.

      1. Well, it seems like employee wages are down for him, given his numbers. I’m guessing as long as he pays his rent on a commercial property during these times, those costs aren’t going up much either. Maybe YOU should give a little more careful consideration before you open up your useless slophole.

        1. You also don’t understand business – ESPECIALLY in a service industry like a restaurant without employees there is no revenue. Who said what about a slophole???

        2. Ok, I guess you need a more in-depth lesson. Revenue may be up, but most likely not long term. People are flocking to restaurants because they have not been in over a year. That will not last forever. Sidelines has increased wages along with EVERYONE else trying to hire but are still not getting works to get off their couch and stop receiving government handouts. Additionally, not only are people trying to pay higher wages, but are having to pay overtime rates to the few employees they do have, so that too is adding to increased costs. So yes, it is absolutely possible to have higher gross revenue, but not higher net profit. Lesson over, now go back to your couch with your hand out.

          1. May not last forever, but apparently they’re lasting for the short term with reduced labor costs. Even with overtime and raises you really think the guy is spending more employing seven people rather than fifteen? Math is not your strong suit.

      2. sounds like you are looking for someone to criticize other than the guy with the crap business plan – what’s up with that way of thinking? – weird entitlement belief system

      3. that fact that he saw “a spike in revenue” and equated that to mean they made more money pretty well proves he knows nothing about business.

    3. That guy owns it??? I’m sure I saw him the other day at the Emerson camp. BTW, that kitchen is foul. Truly the grossest kitchen ever. Is Hep C on the limited or extended menu LOL

  1. There are dozens of restaurants owned by crooks that do not pay their employees enough to survive. There are also “chefs” in town that are some of the worst people I’ve ever met in my life. It’s like these guys think they are on some reality food tv show, working at a sports bar in Bend… Let’s be honest here, this area needs LESS restaurants.

    1. Maybe a federal government bureau to assess what the menu prices should be, how much to pay the workers, what the gross and net profit should be, and how many restaurants for a given population would create a true utopia.

  2. Work is for suckas! Free meals at Family Kitchen. Free supplies at Shepherd’s house. Unemployment with bonus and no need to search for a job. Free “access” cell service. Free healthcare. Needle Exchange. New Tent whenever I move. Oregon Trail Card for “groceries”.

    Why would I bother?

    1. Folks on unemployment are allowed to make more when they go back to work and keep the benefits, its a win-win for everyone, but you I guess?

      1. If I’m worth 30k per year to an employer ($15/hr full time) but I can sponge welfare from you taxpayers worth 35k, why would I work against my own enlightened self-interest?

  3. Sorry but when you pay the lowest wages in one of the most expensive cities to live in Oregon, the cooks will find somewhere else to work. Basic economics.

  4. Downtown eateries have become little more than tourist traps, and are no longer all that welcoming to locals. It was great in years past, but that time is gone forever I suspect. The menu prices continue to increase, the quality continues to decrease, there’s less on the plate, the service is lacking big time and it’s getting harder to park/find a free table.

  5. Investors buying up houses for 700k and renting them out for 3,000 or more per month, where the cooks earning $15 per hour supposed to live? Cooking in a restaurant is not a fun job, if you are wondering why your sando takes so long, get back there and try it out!

    1. Well you have some options. Not that any demorat wants to use options because you would rather complain about how unfair it all is. What a bunch of weenies. Here’s a thought, if you cant afford to live somewhere than go somewhere you can afford. If you want to make more money then be more than an “ENTRY LEVEL” employee. You could always try to you know better yourself and get what’s called a promotion. I know most of you losers who just stay on here insulting trump all day have probably never had one of those. Its when you work hard and show that you are no longer an entry level worker. They move you to a better job because you are a reliable hard worker that does more than complain about how hard it is in life. People like you and the stoner are everything that’s wrong with this country. If you put half the energy you put into sitting on here all day whining about how bad this country is I am sure you wouldn’t have issues with a living wage.

      1. First I’m not a democrat, but I’m sure you’re an idiot trump supporter who is still thinking you won the election! anyway, I complain about idiots like you all day, not the country! and I can be here all day because I own my own business and answer to no one! I can afford to live here and own plenty of real estate in town. Your immature lecture on bootstrap econ 101 is amateurish at best. My point that you missed, is don’t be surprised when there’s no one to make your coffee or sandwich, clownboy!

        1. So you are one of the slumlords that you just complained about? Do you realize how stupid you sound? If you own a business why don’t you offer some employment to these poor cooks? I guess you are fully staffed and all of your employees are highly compensated with full benefits? I don’t believe a word that comes out of your mouth. Why don’t you tell us the name of your business so we can verify that you are such a phenomenal business owner. You wont because you know that you would then be exposed as a bigot and a liar and you would lose business. What a coward. Go ahead ill wait.

    2. Hopefully my comment doesn’t hurt your little sensitive feelings. I wouldn’t want the pathetic bigot Barney to think I may be threatening you.

  6. Offer more hours and better pay. Who wants to work for a employer who gives 15-20hours a week and expects you to work and be avaiable all/any hours IF needed?

  7. A majority of Restaurants are not economical.. waste is abundant.. too many To go containers.. little pay for over worked under appreciated workers.. nevermind how many animals have to die every day for these places to remain open. Replace restaurants with cooking and cultivation classes and create a more sustainable people.

    1. I know many servers, bartenders and cooks that have made more than they ever have this past year once things started opening up. Restaurants are currently overpaying to get people in the door.

  8. Covid exposed late stage capitalism that was already occurring. Covid also put Bend on a bullseye. A line cook job is an awful job like coal mining in West Virginia. People that were willing to do it before are thinking twice or thrice. Global warming is not going to help those swamp coolers. Sounds like the dog days of summer in June to restaurant owners.

  9. Republicans: If you can’t live on a minimum wage job, get a better job!

    Also Republicans: OMG nobody wants to cook my eggs any more!

  10. Soon as the gravy train is shutdown, people will start looking for a job. By then it could be to late since some my shutter their doors.

    I ask for help once back in 1980, I received a couple hundred dollars worth of food stamps. They were shocked when I came back a month later to hand them $200 bucks. No one had ever done that they didn’t know what to do, so I ended up donating it to a women and children’s shelter.

    I built my own company from the ground up at age 17 ran it until I was 40 years old then retired.

    1. Riding around your neighborhood on your 10 speed delivering papers for 23 years is borderline ‘building your own company from the ground up’, but we’ll accept it.

  11. Wealthy pensioners and trust fund babies need to pony up and pay higher prices . Working folk in central oregon can’t afford to eat out . The rents to damn high . The wages are the same as the 1980s and housing prices are tenfold higher

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