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Limited hours of operation create struggles for Anchorage businesses

Limited hours of operation create struggles for Anchorage businesses
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:18 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 7:30 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Nearly every day of the week, BurgerFi in the Midtown Anchorage location finds itself short staffed.

“I wake up in the morning as operations manager, and look at my phone to see what of my store managers or who from my stores have called me to tell me whether they can open, how many have called in,” said Jack Lewis, managing partner for BurgerFi’s in Anchorage. “And it’s becoming a way of life for me, almost a regular routine rather than an unusual. It’s more than norm now than the exception.”

BurgerFi joins numerous other businesses throughout the city who are now hanging “New COVID-19 hours of operation,” or “Closed Early” signs on their windows as a combination of the rapidly spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 and the city’s tight job market leaves businesses struggling to find staff.

“A tight labor market means overtime for those who are working,” said Bill Popp, CEO and President of Anchorage Economic Development Corp. “It means tougher schedules for employees but it also means limited hours. We’re seeing that in restaurants right now with the COVID surge, where they just can’t staff the restaurants all seven days of the week, all hours of the day that they normally would.”

Lewis said BurgerFi has tried numerous different techniques to battle being short staffed. He said the restaurant in the past has closed, shortened work days and even shortened work weeks. BurgerFi, which on a regular schedule is open seven days a week, shut down on Mondays every week in December and part of January. It’s a decision Lewis said he is debating on reimplementing again.

“Just to give my managers who are working six, six and a half days a week, an actual day off,” Lewis said. “Where their phone doesn’t ring and they can enjoy their families a little bit, along with regular staff members. We’ve been pushing them pretty hard.”

The decision to have limited hours, however, is taking a toll on their profits, Lewis said. But one of his major concerns, he said, is making sure he can keep the good employees he has on staff.

“We’ve been fighting to find that good balance between keeping everyone working and giving them some time off,” Lewis said. “Not closing too many hours, then people look for another job, and in the very tight labor market I’d hate to be losing anybody at this stage.”

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