Owner of popular Pocatello eatery hopes to maintain extended hours amid staffing challenges - East Idaho News

Owner of popular Pocatello eatery hopes to maintain extended hours amid staffing challenges

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POCATELLO — Ross Park Drive In — with its Taco Spaghetti and Bubba Burgers — has returned for the season, but it’s fighting to stay open for dinner.

Ross Park Drive In had to adjust its hours as the season wound down last year, owner-operator Dave Wilkes said. And for the first couple weeks of operation this year, it kept the same reduced hours — 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. instead of the familiar 8 p.m.

“That was the first time that we’d ever done that,” Wilkes said. “We might be going back to it. … It’s just tough with staffing right now.”

Double Bubba Burger, Ross Park Drive In
Ross Park Drive In’s Bubba Burger | Courtesy photo

This week, the restaurant went back to its traditional hours, but with staffing issues — specifically cooks — the hours may again be cut back.

Wilkes, who believes Ross Park Drive In is the oldest operating restaurant in town, said that for the past 29 years, he has taken pleasure in offering the drive-in’s classics — with a twist — for lunch and dinner. But, he joked, he is too old to take on the 70- or 80-hour work weeks required to keep with the restaurant open for dinner without added help.

Staffing issues, he said, are multifaceted.

Not a unique problem

Primarily though, it has become increasingly difficult to find dependable workers. That is a sentiment shared by Brian Zenger, co-owner of Grandma’s Pantry.

Zenger told EastIdahoNews.com that he is having similar issues, with applicants few and far between.

Ross Park Drive In operates through the summer months while Grandma’s Pantry runs it food trucks when weather allows. Both business owners enter their busy season ready to operate business as usual.

Asked what he has in store for his customers this summer, Wilkes said they can expect the same delicious drive-through food they have gotten for decades. He is a subscriber to the theory — “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

“Our menu hasn’t changed in forever,” Wilkes said.

Ross Park Drive In (sometimes spelled Ross Park Drive Inn) is at 2340 South 2nd Avenue and is open seven-days a week.

Grandma’s Pantry, which also operates inside Station Square at The Little Nook, is open Monday to Wednesday, and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It stays open later, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays, when Station Square hosts its open-mic nights.