Restaurants reconfigure jobs to keep workers on the payroll

Published: Mar. 24, 2020 at 3:46 PM EDT
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Inside the Miss Lyndonville Diner, the phones are ringing and the grill is on. Customers are still making it out for pickup orders.

"Oh, they are just like family to us, so we try to do what we can to help," said Diane True of Lyndonville.

But limitations and shutdowns due to the coronavirus mean it hasn't been easy for this landmark restaurant in the Northeast Kingdom. The diner has reduced to pickup only and shortened hours.

"Very devastating. It was really hard to shut the doors on our customers," said Kimberly Gaboriault, the manager of the Miss Lyndonville.

An odd situation for a dining room that is normally full.

"Tables cross over and chat. It's really a sense of community and sharing," said Hedi Sanborn, a waitress.

Some employees were laid off, but to help in the tough times, the restaurant turned to other ways to pay workers, asking them to help with maintenance.

"A lot of painting, we have got cleaning to do," Gaboriault said.

She says March and April are already slow months, but giving some employees part-time minimum wage jobs helps their community and their business.

"Just trying to beef it up so when we open, we are ready," Gaboriault said.

Madalyn Sanborn is home from college. Normally during school breaks, she is a waitress, but now, she is turning in her notepad for a cleaning rag.

"You don't know what's going to happen and how long it's going to go on," she said. "So, it's nice to get some hours in and know there is a little bit of comfort."

And as they work, they think about their regulars, especially those who are vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19.

"We really are concerned for our customers and we have some that we just haven't seen," Sanborn said. "We have a lot of compassion and it's very important that we keep our doors open for those people."

The diner says they will take it day by day with these odd jobs. They hope to keep takeout going for as long as possible.

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