- Skyler Reeves told Insider that he’s cut “difficult” menu items to retain staff in the labor crunch.
- He axed a lamb hibiscus taco after one of his chefs said it was a “pain in the a–” to make.
- The Vivili Hospitality Group owner said he also cut a garlic bread and chicken taco from his menus.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
An Arizona restaurant boss scrapped a taco item from his menu because it was a “pain in the a–” to prepare for his kitchen staff – and he wanted to stop them from leaving during a severe labor shortage.
Skyler Reeves, owner of Vivili Hospitality Group, which runs five dining spots in Prescott, Arizona, told Insider that he axed the lamb hibiscus taco from his La Planchada restaurant because it took five hours to roast, required a very specific spice mix, and needed to be cut in a special way.
“It was like, ‘Man, we’re killing our prep guy. And we’re not even really making much money off of this,'” Reeves added, referring to the dish.
Reeves said he approached one of his cooks and asked if removing the item would make his job easier. The cook responded, saying: “‘Oh, boss, absolutely. That damn lamb is a pain in the a–, it takes all my time.'”
Reeves said a severe staffing crunch had pushed him to make his employees’ day-to-day jobs easier by cutting menu items that were “frustrating or difficult” to prepare to encourage them to stay. But it is too early to say whether it has worked, he added.
Although not a “magical silver bullet” to solve his staffing shortage, Vivili’s efforts to improve its workers’ jobs – which included yanking a time-consuming chicken taco from La Planchada’s menu, and purchasing a bigger dishwasher – have boosted morale.
“I think it shows we’re willing to invest in things that make their job better, not just invest in things that make the guest experience better,” Reeves said. “We want to invest in both of those things.”
Reeves said he had created a new wage increase program for entry-level staff called “the road to 17.” These employees, some of whom earn Vivili’s lowest hourly wage of $12.15, could earn $17 an hour within a year if they perform well, he said.
“These entry-level guys and girls can work anywhere they want, they can literally walk across the street and start working the same day,” he added.
However, not all of his changes have been successful: Reeves told Insider that he reversed a decision in February to stop serving a specific garlic bread at his pizzeria, Rosa’s, despite it taking about 10 hours every week to prepare, because its replacement was not a hit with diners.
Although the labor shortage is still Reeves’ “number one challenge every day,” it has eased slightly in recent weeks, he said, although he is still looking to fill between 30 and 45 vacant positions in the next few weeks.
Vivili could reintroduce its axed menu items if it hires enough staff, Reeves said.
Hiring has picked up in recent weeks: Food services and drinking establishments added 253,000 jobs in July, accounting for two thirds of the job gains in the leisure and hospitality industries that month, the Labor Department said.
Read More: An Arizona restaurant boss scrapped a ‘pain in the a–‘ lamb taco to keep his chefs