SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The changing times with the COVID-19 crisis hits particularly hard on front line workers, and both owners and managers are working on ways to keep their employees motivated during uncertain conditions.
This includes staffing changes, layoffs, furlough options, retraining and working from home challenges.
Many Santa Barbara managers say recently they have worked to create a health work place for employees who are on the job. In addition they have offered help to establish a work-from-home hook up.
For those who are uncertain about their future, a transparent conversation about their job has proven to be the best approach.
Some are worried about the impact of state rules on their employer. Others are concerned about the return of customers at the volume that existed in pre-COVID months.
In a visit to downtown Santa Barbara, the lunch time crowd was out under sunny skies Wednesday. "They [employees] want to come to work and customers keep wanting to come eat," said Joe's Cafe Manager Deborah Bahre.
For businesses that have been able to open, even at limited capacity, like Joe's, it's been a tremendous relief during the COVID crisis.
Very little however is the same as it was inside with the restaurant and bustling bar. All the tables are outside under maroon umbrellas and tall trees.
Restaurant workers say the kitchen is now a bit farther from seating areas, making them have an increase in steps.
"It's harder work. You do work farther. If we do it on our watch it can be 22 to 25,000 steps during a shift," said Bahre.
Keeping moral up and good customer service in these stressful times are priorities. Many restaurant owners say they have to lead by example.
Falah Maayahh at Foxtail restaurant said, "We can't be laid down, we need to keep going, that's the thing. That's the right thing to do. I'm so happy we have more space outside right now plus we have the back patio."
Foxtail restaurant and others on Cota Street are collaborating where they can, so they can rise up together and keep their workers employed.
Some of the employers have had to help out their employees with government paperwork, for example, their unemployment forms.
"I did two already so far. They've been on unemployment I sat with them I figured it out with the EDD. They are fine right now," said Maayahh.
A veteran chef has expanded Mesa Burger during the crisis and that's created more jobs. The new location is on Coast Village Road. It joins Mesa Burger on the Santa Barbara Mesa and in Goleta.
"It's really about how you carry yourself," said owner Cat Cora.
She says a clean, healthy environment puts everyone in a better mood to come to work or come to eat. "We are again pivoting to make sure we are keeping our staff safe, our customers safe ourselves safe."
Being sensitive to employees concerns and talking openly is also motivates a staff whether its their first job or if they are veterans.
"If people don't feel comfortable coming to work we've allowed them to be home for that time," said Cora. "We have been very flexile with our staff and communicate a lot. Communication is the key."
In April, many downtown restaurants shared gift cards. They were used as perks for employees. That not only kept the kitchens busy but also enabled the workers to see others in the industry and get to know them or collaborate on solutions.