St. Louis County restaurant cites labor shortage for closing after nearly 50 years

Missouri

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – The owners of a St. Louis County restaurant say that they are closing after over four decades because of the labor shortage. Balducci’s posted the announcement to their Facebook page. Posts to their social media channels show that they have been looking for more employees for several months. They even had to limit indoor service because of staff shortages.

“This morning it kind of hit us getting all these Facebook remarks talking about the restaurant, it was a tearjerker,” Rick Balducci, the owner and founder of Balducci’s said.

Hundreds of people have commented and shared their fond memories, dining and even working at Balducci’s over the years. Management said the impact of the labor shortage became too much for the beloved eatery.

“We needed a lot more than a couple of people, we needed somebody to help us manage, cooks, servers, we would get applicants and they would never show up for an interview, that’s what we’ve pretty much heard from other businesses,” Rick said. “Some nights we didn’t have enough people to open, we had in-house dining but then to-go carry out only, you can only cut your hours back so much, we got bills to pay, food costs are up.”

The Balduccis said COVID was a factor as well.

“More people working from home, not doing lunches, not getting out like they could, it just really changed the whole dynamic of the restaurant,” Carol Balducci said. But that doesn’t change the nearly 50 years of great memories made for patrons, staff, and the family behind the restaurant.

“So many memories made there, so many people engaged, met, that’s where rick and I met years ago at the restaurant, we are just glad that we had that time. It’s sad, yes, but we are just blessed that we had such a great following,” Carol said.

Balducci’s is not the only place feeling the effects of the tight labor market. Restaurants and coffee shops, for example, have had to close when they’re supposed to be open because they don’t have the staff to cover their shifts. FOX 2 reported this summer about the shortage reaching critical levels in St. Louis. Some companies still searching for workers pay $80,000 to $100,000 and offer on-the-job training.

Two St. Charles food establishments closed over the weekend, citing staffing and revenue shortages. Dana Bannister, the owner of Ruma’s Deli and Big Richard’s Hot Dogs in St. Charles, shut its doors Saturday.

“It just wasn’t making the revenue that it needed to make,” Bannister said. “It was rough to close the doors. I’m going to miss the customers, the employees.”

Bannister also owns the Ruma’s Deli location in Imperial, Missouri, which will remain open. The location in South County is also staying open, but she does not own that location. She opened Ruma’s Deli in January 2019 and Big Richard’s Hot Dog next door in September 2019, just months before the COVID pandemic. Now, they are looking for a potential business to take over its lease.

Fast-food chain Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers had to send about half of its corporate staff out to fill in as fry cooks and cashiers as its locations deal with a staffing shortage, according to Bloomberg. They are trying to hire 10,000 new restaurant workers over the next 50 days for locations across the country.

What’s next for the owners? The owners said they plan to retire, spend time with each other again, and their children and grandchildren. They owned Balducci Vineyards in Augusta, Missouri and their son is still a winemaker at the vineyard. It appears to be going well. But it was recently acquired by the Hoffmann Family of Companies. Their website says you can meet Rick and Carol Balducci there.

David and Jerri Hoffmann acquired six Augusta area wineries. Nearly 700 acres will be developed and remodeled. Plans for the area will include a 5-star hotel and spa, paddle boats, steamboat tours, and day cruises on the Missouri River.

Balducci’s restaurant posted this statement to Facebook:

To Our Loyal Patrons and Friends of Balducci’s ~

For 46 years we did our absolute best to serve you and make your tummies smile. We started with nothing, did all the carpentry, built the original furniture out of church pews, chairs from wine barrels, and tables from U.E. wire spools that were hand painted by Brother Mathew from the Black Madonna Shrine in Eureka, MO. Our original phone booth was a confessional from a church in East St. Louis that went out of business. We showed huge GAF super slides from all over the world (before large TV’s), and mixed in ethnic music to try to make the place fun for everyone. Our goal was to make the place a little different for you to enjoy. I hope we succeeded.

Our food was from old family recipes and ones we developed along the way. The Balducci Family has been involved in the grocery, tavern, restaurant or wine business in some way since the late 1800’s. It’s very sad and emotional to let go, but when we can’t find enough people to staff the operation, there’s nothing more we can do.

We can’t thank you enough for your incredible Support. We can’t thank our amazing Staff enough for sticking with us and fighting till the end. We love them and hope you loved them too!

God Bless You and your Families and say a prayer for this Great Country

Sincerely,

The Balducci Family and Staff

Please share your Balducci memories on our Facebook or at rick@balduccismail.com.

Thank you!

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