It was a tough decision, but Amy Wong felt she had no other choice: On Sept. 1 she announced on Facebook and Instagram that her Copiague restaurant, Simply Thai, was closing "due to the lack of workers."
Since it opened in 2017, tucked away in the corner of a Montauk Highway strip mall, Simply Thai served some of Long Island’s very best Thai food. It was one of three Thai spots on Newsday’s 2020 Top 100 Restaurants.
Wong said in an interview that hiring employees had never been easy but that, in the past, if workers left, others could be hired to replace them. Now, she said, "we just cannot find people. Or, they come one day and don’t show up the next day."
With Wong in the dining room and her partner, chef Nae Wipaporn Sittidej, in the kitchen, "fully staffed" meant six additional people: four cooks and two servers. "But the last few months, the most we had was four employees total."
When I visited earlier this summer, Simply Thai was using disposable plates and utensils. Wong explained that while this had started as a response to the pandemic, she had stuck to it because it minimized the need for a dishwasher. "A dishwasher only washes dishes; if I’m going to hire someone they would be better off cooking."
Wong and Sittidej were well aware that service was slower than it should have been. "We would have a full house and I’d see my customers waiting and it would stress me out, but there was nothing we could do about it."