By: Pari Apostolakos

While many people have been working from home due to the pandemic, there are some avenues of work which don’t allow for that flexibility. Pari Apostolakos spoke to one Champaign woman who works in the restaurant industry. She has faced challenges of her own.

Katie Swindle works as a server and hostess at two locally owned restaurants in Champaign. As an essential worker she has seen firsthand the impacts of the pandemic on small businesses and those who rely on them for employment. Not to mention, she has been navigating these complex times with a family member battling cancer.

The way Katie cares for her mother’s dogs speaks to her nature. In her profession, it helps to be kind. She faces her own challenges working in the restaurant industry with a close relative who was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the pandemic.

“When you have an at-risk family member, and you work in restaurants, there aren’t many other jobs that come in so much contact with people … it’s not worth the risk, but I do have bills to pay,” she said.

Restaurant employees have been in this tug of war, choosing between their health and safety or their financial stability since dine-in services reopened in the summer.

“If you’re a server or bartender I can’t think of any restaurant that offers health insurance … if I got sick i can’t do anything about it,” Swindle said.

Katie’s safety is also dependent on the actions of others.

“The amount of selfish behavior you see in these anti-maskers [is astounding],” She said.

That behavior is what makes Katie’s coworker, Claire Smith, think there is much more work to be done before life returns to normal.

“We’re just adjusting and adapting to the way [COVID-19 has impacted the restaurant industry],” she said.