In normal times, chef Michael Beltran would have a straightforward plan: Take the seasoned staff from his existing restaurants and have them launch the new ones. These are not normal times.
Beltran needs to hire 85 people for the five eateries he aims to open this year. Meanwhile at his flagship fine-dining restaurant Ariete, as well as his more casual seafood-and-pasta spot Navé, both in Coconut Grove, he’s down dozens of waiters and short prep cooks.
The pasta guy failed to show up for his Navé shift, no phone call; a sous chef had to jump into the role. Both restaurants have been short on full-time help for so long in the dish room that managers are starting to bargain and cajole about who deserves a dishwasher just to get through weekend brunch service. Beltran wants Navé open seven days a week but doesn’t have the bodies to make it work.
Tourism is roaring back in Miami, vaccines and easing coronavirus restrictions filling restaurants and reservation books again. There is pent-up enthusiasm to dine out, even to splurge on Beltran’s 14-course tasting menu.
The days of only six customers in the dining room, of hustling to find any revenue stream — turning his third restaurant, Chug’s Cuban Diner, into a bodega selling basic groceries, offering cocktail kits to go, launching a pop-up seafood shack — seem to be in the past.
But Beltran faces an unexpected new threat. He can’t find anywhere near enough bussers, prep cooks, line cooks, bartenders, servers.