San Diego

Labor Shortages Prompt San Diego Restaurant to Cut Hours

Restaurants such as Cocina 35 are struggling to find workers and decided to close down on Wednesdays due to the lack of staff

NBC Universal, Inc.

Businesses in San Diego can operate at 100% capacity now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, but one local restaurant owner says she simply cannot do so due to labor shortages.

"If you get to see the line, that's our biggest blessing," said Paulina Chaidez, the owner of the Cocina 35 restaurants. "It's a line out our door."

Despite the full state and county reopening, Chaidez said she had to make the difficult decision to close down her two Mexican breakfast restaurants every Wednesday.

"We are unable to do it, not because we don't want to -- it's because we are unable to," Chaidez explained.

Chaidez and her family run two Mexican eateries, one in downtown San Diego and another in Otay Mesa. She said they average about 120 employees working at both spots. Right now, they have just 80 workers, leaving them in a big deficit.

"We celebrate Mexican Mother's Day here and then the American Mother's Day, the graduations," Chaidez said. "it's the biggest month, and, well, we couldn't handle it."

The Latina entrepreneur said that, early on in the pandemic, her staff was eager to work takeout and came back during the first reopenings. By the fall of last year, however, she began losing a lot of employees to big delivery companies. Others, she said, chose to stay home.

"In nine years, we never thought we would have to make such a decision," Chaidez said.

As the economy has reopened Chaidez and her team are looking for line cooks, cashiers and cleaning personnel for both their locations.

"We went for a year and a half ago having 30 applications a week to having two applications every two months," Chaidez said. "Two applications."

The passionate entrepreneur said closing down one day a week will help her staff and that she hopes it will also help the customers get the service they deserve.

"I love seeing the smiles of our customers when they walk in and they're showing someone else: 'Look at these chilaquiles,' 'Try the cafe de olla,' and, 'Oh, you have to try the flan,' " Chaidez said. "Hearing that is the best thing."

Chaidez said she hopes the closure on Wednesdays is only temporary and looks forward to hiring staff.

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