Staffing shortage closes Wise Pizza in Watertown

Owner Josh Weyh says finding employees to work during peak business hours has been the struggle.
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 4:33 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Wise Pizza in Watertown has announced they’ll be closing permanently, citing staff shortages as the main reason they’ll be shutting their doors.

Owner Josh Weyh says finding employees to work during peak business hours has been the struggle. In order to properly function, Weyh says he needs 12 to 14 employees. Recently, he’s only had seven or eight to work with.

”We really struggled with the kitchen help. It’s a fast-paced environment. It’s nights, it’s weekends, and people just don’t want to do that,” said Weyh.

Not only is staffing an issue, but the price inflation of supplies is too.

”Every time I go to place an order, it’s just crazy on how much it’ll go up. Some things will go up a dollar or two dollars or three dollars. Some things will take a higher jump, but at the end of the day, it’s just like going to the grocery store. You’re getting a lot less and paying a lot more for it,” said Weyh.

Weyh says he’s trying to compete with other hiring businesses, but that would also mean increasing prices further.

”It’s really tough when other entry-level jobs are starting at $18 or $19 an hour. I’d love to pay that, but then I always question how much will someone pay for a chicken dinner. How much will someone pay for a pizza?” said Weyh.

Business, however, has been good since Wise Pizza opened in November of 2020. In fact, when they announced they were closing, orders shot through the roof.

”The community support since we announced our closure has just been unbelievable. The dining room has been packed, the delivery drivers have just been constantly out on the road. Customers waiting for their carryout and waiting in the drive-through has just been phenomenal. We’ve had customers come in almost every day, regular customers. They’re like, ‘We’re going to eat this until we can’t eat it anymore,’” said Weyh.

That’s not where the support stopped. When Wise Pizza announced its closure on Facebook, customers were calling for others to apply.

“I was very appreciative of that grassroots effort of everybody saying, ‘Hey, come down and apply, come down and apply,’ but ultimately, I think what would happen is in a few months we’d be back in this same position where we just wouldn’t be able to staff it properly,” said Weyh.

Even after adjusting pay levels and prices, Weyh came to the conclusion it was time to close.

”It was a difficult decision to close the restaurant, but everybody in this industry is in the same boat and you’re going to see more and more closures. It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets a lot better,” said Weyh.

Wise Pizza’s last day of operation will be July 10th.

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