The demand is there, but the workers are not.
Summer is usually the busiest time of year for the Madras Dairy Queen. But they shut down for the foreseeable future in late June because they don’t have enough staff to stay open.
“Never in my life have I ever seen it like this where you have absolutely no one looking for work,” Owner Francis Millard said.
What’s usually a popular pit stop for travelers and a regular haunt for locals is now a ghost town closed seven days a week.
“It’s extremely hard,” Millard said.
Over the past several months, employees have dropped off and applications for open positions have become rare. Around five employees remain.
“Everybody has to work 12 to 9 and that’s just too many hours, it’s too hot, it’s too stressful, so rather than taxing our employees so much we just decided to make this tough decision,” Millard said.
The Madras Dairy Queen was build in 1953. It’s been owned by Frances Millard’s husband’s family since 1956.
When asked if Millard has ever struggled to get staff to this extent before, she replied, “never.”
“Madras has always had a problem with the number of workers, but we have always been able to get people,” Millard said.
It will be especially hard to reopen now because they don’t have enough workers to train new staff, Millard said.
They’re still hoping to reopen soon — they just need people to apply.
“I don’t know why nobody wants to work,” Manager Karla Brasel said.
On Wednesday, Brasel and Millard cleared melted ice cream cakes from the freezer.
When the DQ can open up again, Millard knows the community will be ready to visit.
“We just got a really nice card from the fire department saying how much they love this Dairy Queen, and all we’ve done for the community, and how much they miss it and how they hope we can get back open again,” Millard said.
Millard and Brasel agree: the hiring shortage sweeping Central Oregon feels like just one more difficulty facing restaurants this year.