To the Editor:
A few days ago, I was late picking up two pizzas from Rocco’s in the Tisbury Marketplace. These pizzas were for senior book club members no longer needing face masks, so happy to see the boxes arrive in the nick of time on a back screened-in porch. Parking in front of Rocco’s, I realized I had misplaced my mask under kids’ backpacks, but the waitress inside noticed my car pull up, and out she came, delivering the hot pizzas into my backseat. She did this with a kindness and appreciation we are not seeing these days in our Island restaurants.
It is a big relief that restaurants can extend seating capacity, but it is the painful truth that the staff within are stretched to the max trying to be the bartenders, servers, takeout clerks, part managers and yes, even dishwashers. If a brave journalist popped into the near frantic kitchens, they would see the owners helping prep the food for the chef, relieving the sole dishwasher who needs to eat his lunch on his small timeout, and yes, these same owners rushing back into the dining areas to console the impatient diners who can’t believe the restaurants aren’t the same as they were before St. Patrick’s Day in March 2020! The few loyal servers are handling several tables at once, masked and exhausted, rarely hearing a thank-you or an appreciation for how really hard it is to keep dying restaurants alive for them.
When a couple changes a diaper on a table and young children run up and around the aisles without parents pulling them back to their tables, that also adds pressure on the staff. When families use three tables to eat and stay for an extra two hours, that means less money for the restaurant, and frustration from the servers. Those patrons hoping to have a relaxed dining experience when the operation in the background is run with bare bones might be interested to know that chefs quit, managers get panic attacks, servers feel insulted, owners are watching their investments die out. And then that other ingredient, how much food to buy, needing it to be cooked before all the wholesale prices skyrocket. The mom and pop restaurants do not own their properties. They rent from landlords here and far away who are also nervous about their trust in the businesses they rent. COVID has dealt us severe body blows. Restaurants more than other businesses are key to an Island home and tourist economy.
Try a little tenderness. Give a rip about how hard it is for them to survive. Patience is a virtue. Our restaurants will endure as long as you wish them to. And As Aretha Franklin sang, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, or find out we are gone!