Paige Rollins grew concerned Monday when she read Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson issued an order requiring bars to close and restaurants to provide takeout food only.
Rollins, a server at Elements Restaurant in Logan, said managers told staff the restaurant would close only if Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statewide order requiring them to do so.
“That definitely alleviated some of my worries,” Rollins said.
While at work the next day, Rollins heard the governor’s order requiring restaurants to close their dine-in operations and switch to take-out only, effective the following day.
“My initial reaction was stress because I had just gotten back from Spring Break, where I dipped into my savings account thinking I would be able to work and replenish it when I got back,” she said.
The next day, Rollins had to move back to her parents’ house in Provo because she no longer had the resources to live on her own in Logan.
In the week before Herbert’s announcement, several Logan servers said they received a small fraction of the tips they normally received and their hours were cut significantly. Savannah Fleming, a hostess at Elements, said she had a series of shifts in which she was sent home several hours earlier than normal, meaning she lost out on about half the hourly income she was expecting for the day.
“I pay all of my own bills, I have a dog to take care of,” she said.
Her birthday is also in a week and she may not be able to celebrate due to her cut income.
“I’ve just sat here and wondered how I’m going to make money,” she said.
While Fleming understands why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asks people to socially isolate and stay home, “it’s really hurting the restaurant industry,” she said. “Either people are going to get sick and spread it everywhere or I won’t be able to pay my bills in a month or so.”
Sophia Demiris, a manager at Elements, said the restaurant has created to-go “meal kits” for families to try and make up for the lack of dine-in business. The kits include four servings of an entree, side dish and dessert. The meals are precooked and customers receive instructions on how to prepare the rest when they pick up.
“It’s like a full restaurant style meal and you get to do it at home,” Demiris said. “We’ve improvised because we really want to help the community.”
Other Cache Valley servers have also struggled financially the last week.
Jake Renn, a server at Takara Sushi, first thought Salt Lake County’s announcement was “extreme” and didn’t worry about his job at Takara being jeopardized.
Last week, when people started growing concerned, Renn said business slowed down “a bit,” but not to a largely noticeable extent. A few days later, Renn’s manager called and told him he wouldn’t be able to work for at least two weeks after the governor’s announcement.
“That was stressful,” he said. “Essentially, two weeks of unpaid leave.”
Similarly, Sam Hendricks, a server at Sizzler, said she made about one-third of the tips she normally makes in the week before Herbert’s announcement.
“Throughout the night, I’ll sit there and be stressed about it. I know I’m not making any money,” she said. “It’s an opportunity-loss type thing because I could be at home doing homework and generating value that way or I could be at work making way less money than I’m supposed to.”
Hendricks paid her way through school and avoided taking out loans by waiting tables at Sizzler the last three years. But her job as a server no longer exists for the foreseeable future.
“It’s frustrating, and it makes me kind of mad because I know how my life is supposed to be moving along right now, and it’s not because of this thing that’s completely out of my hands,” she said. “All we can do is attempt to social distance as much as possible.”