Up and down, up and down.
The past year-and-a-half has been a roller coaster of emotions, says Paul Gabriel, co-owner of Browndog Barlor & Restaurant
, the restaurant, bar, and ice cream parlor with locations in downtown Northville and downtown Farmington. While the Browndog in Northville has managed to stay open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the Farmington location that has been especially hit hard these past 18 months.
After closing and then reopening
and then closing again, Gabriel and the Browndog team are ready to open in Farmington once more — if they can find the staff. Throughout the pandemic, finding and hiring employees has become an issue for bars and restaurants across the United States and Browndog is no different. It’s what forced them to close in 2020, Gabriel says, and it’s what is preventing them from reopening in 2021.
They even got to the point of closing the Farmington location altogether.
“You know, an empty building is very expensive. So we tried to sell our building. We even had a buyer and then that fell through. Now we’re back to hiring,” Gabriel says.
“But we didn’t want to sell to begin with — Farmington has been good to us.”
A “Now Hiring” sign with a QR code makes it easier for passers-by to scan and apply with their smartphones. (Photo: Facebook)
Browndog Farmington is making another push to reopen this summer but the same staffing issues remain.
“It’s still a real challenge. We actively tried to hire over the past month and we got about five applications over that period,” Gabriel says. “It’s the only thing we’re waiting on.”
Gabriel says that it would take approximately ten employees to reopen Browndog Farmington, a team that would include servers, bartenders, and kitchen staff. Once they have that, they could reopen in just two weeks-time.
For his part, Gabriel says that Browndog has raised employees’ wages in response to the staffing issues. The company is hoping to offer employees benefits soon, too.
“Benefits have always been in the plans. I think that will be a powerful hiring and retention tool,” he says.
Gabriel is even considering self-ordering apps and automating the ordering process. It would eliminate the need for hiring an employee or two, he says, and get Browndog one step closer to reopening.
A “Now Hiring” sign has been placed in their window, outfitted with a QR code to make it easier for passers-by to scan and apply with their smartphones. They’ve taken out Facebook ads. Browndog is also accepting applications online
and via email.
The demand for Browndog’s return to downtown Farmington is certainly there. The Farmington DDA’s Facebook post
announcing the potential reopening went viral, garnering hundreds of ‘Likes’ and dozens of shares throughout the social media platform. And that’s just one instance of many others.
“This has been one of the hardest things of my career as a business owner, to have a business that is growing but stunted by a lack of staff,” Gabriel says.
“If it was just happening to us, we’d say, Okay, let’s take a look at ourselves, adapt and figure it out. But it really is happening everywhere across the country.”
Asked why he thinks that is, Gabriel doesn’t believe it’s one specific reason over another, but a confluence of a number of events.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things. I don’t want to speculate or pick on one issue or another,” he says. “But I do know we’re not the only ones. You can see it on the news. It’s happening everywhere.”
Visit the Browndog Barlor & Restaurant online.