Staffing issues plaguing local businesses

Brenda and Buzzie Hughes, owners of Buzzie's Bar-B-Q, are now open after closing for more than a week after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

Area restaurant owners and their hopeful customers are still resorting to signs on windows and doors, and notices on Facebook and other social media, to try to keep track of what’s open and what’s not.

Buzzie’s Barbecue

Buzzie and Brenda Hughes had their barbecue restaurant open on Aug. 30, but one of their employees got a positive COVID test after beginning to feel not so well.

“We thought it best to close in order to minimize exposure to both our employees and our community,” Brenda said.

“We’ll re-open on Thursday, Sept. 9, but only with a healthy staff,” she said.

Late last week, the Hughes said they usually operate with a core group of employees and some short-timers. And with the usual fall wind-down in the pace of their business, they already had been cooking mainly for curbside and catering customers for almost a month.

So when one of their core group got tested for COVID and was positive, they chose closing for about 10 days.

“We want to be safe for the community and our own families. He and I will do what we can. We shut down for everyone to have a chance to get the virus – or not. So far, so good,” she said.

“Our business slows after Memorial Day for various reasons, until February and March,” Buzzie said, “except for special events. And school is back in session now. After 30 years of this, you have to know what you’re doing.”

They said the pandemic has had a related effect on supplies they use every day, too, especially styrofoam containers, paper plates and plastic lids for cups. They’ve had to search out some alternative things to use; or choose to pay higher costs to suppliers who want to deliver much larger amounts at a time, when the items are available.

“We’ve already been taking everyone’s temperature each day when they get to work. And when one had a fever and tested positive for COVID, we decided to shut down for 10 days and send everyone home to self-isolate,” he said.

The restaurant is not loaded with groceries right now, they said; and “nine or 10 days won’t make or break us.”

The Hughes did suggest that area patrons can call the restaurant first at (830) 257-4540 on Thursday, to see if they are open again.

Brown’s Drive-In

The lone cook/staffer in Brown’s Drive-In late last week answered questions through the open top section of their screen door on the front of the restaurant.

The menu is still posted outside on the porch; and the chalkboard on the lower part of the door says, “Order here – no inside seating.”

The cook said they’re open at their usual hours for drive-through and take-out, mainly. Or people can order their food and sit at one of the few tables still on the front porch.

Regular hours were listed as Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The restaurant is located at 1152 Sidney Baker S.; and patrons can call them at 896-3661 to place an order for pick-up or eating outside.

Sonic - Kerrville

General Manager Terri Johnston at the Sonic on Junction Highway was on that site one day last week doing additional cleaning and sorting, while that location was closed.

She said the other Sonic at 1727 Sidney Baker N. is open at its usual hours, 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. (midnight) and that location did have customers in drive-in spaces and its drive-through last week.

Johnston said the company decided for the first full week of September to shift their employees and supplies to that location in Kerrville and some other nearby towns, so everyone who was available to work could be working and nothing would be wasted or thrown away.

They are still looking for more employees, so the two locations in Kerrville can both be open.

Johnston said she’s frustrated by the lack of applicants and wanted to tell people yes, it’s fast food, but it’s higher than minimum wage and can pay the employees’ bills. It does for her, as she lives outside of Kerr County and commutes to work here and at other locations.

The phone number for the Junction Highway location is 895-0808, for those who want to call ahead to check.

Acapulco Restaurant

This Mexican cuisine restaurant at 1718 Sidney Baker N. had enlarged type-written signs on the locked doors and the drive-through order box/speaker to tell customers they were closed due to staff shortages through Friday, Sept. 3.

The sign said they would re-open on Saturday, Sept. 4.

They thanked everyone for their patience and understanding; and said they “GREATLY” appreciated all their customers.

The notice pointed customers to the restaurants’ Facebook page for “future hours” and apologized for the inconvenience.

The phone number for this restaurant is 257-6222 for those who might want to call first.

Hill Country Cafe

The owner of the Hill Country Cafe at 806 Main St. downtown had already changed his hours earlier in the pandemic, due to staffing shortages. And he still has a sign posted, seeking cooks, especially.

The hours have been 6-11 a.m. for breakfast; and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch.

But that restaurant also had been closed for about a week, so the current staff including the owner could have a vacation.

They posted a very large “Vacation” banner in one front window.

They’ve been closed from Aug. 29 through Sept. 6 “for vacation.”

“Our staff has been working hard and short-handed for months and they need a break. We will re-open Sept. 7 at 6 a.m.,” the signs in the window said.

The phone number there is 257-6665 if residents want to call first, or check them out on Facebook for the latest information.

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