Stopping at a Twin Cities Caribou Coffee for a caffeine pick-me-up has felt a bit like spinning a roulette wheel lately.
"Why are your coffee shops closed more than open? This is the third time, in two different locations," asked one Twitter user.
"My wife had to drive to 3 @cariboucoffee to find one that’s open," added another.
And on Reddit, one thread asks simply: "Did Caribou just quit?"
A quick glance at the hours for many Twin Cities locations shows closing times of noon, 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. — much earlier than the late afternoon or evening closing times customers have been accustomed to in recent years. The shorter hours seem to be particularly common in the west metro.
So what's going on?
Like many other businesses, Minnesota's most conspicuous coffee chain is apparently coping with a worker shortage. Caribou, in a couple of Twitter replies, cites "staffing needs" and "staffing issues" for the abrupt, temporary closures of some stores.
It also may be behind the dramatic change in hours of operation at various locations.
The Caribou at 1700 Plymouth Road, for example, was open 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day as recently as February of this year. Its current hours are half that: 6 a.m. to noon.
Caribou Coffee told Bring Me The News a "select number" of locations have "temporarily adjusted hours and/or have limited service to drive-thru only when necessary" because of a lack of workers.
"We fully anticipate this to be temporary and look forward to full service in all of our locations as soon as possible," the company's statement said,
Caribou also said that updated store hours are available on Caribou's website or through the Caribou Perks app, and noted they're actively looking to fill team and leadership positions.
This is not a Caribou-specific problem. Businesses around the state and country have been unable to find workers, particularly for jobs in the service industry. A fall survey from the trade group Hospitality Minnesota found 63% of hospitality operators described the labor market as "very tight."
Among just food service businesses, that figure was 76%. Just 6% of food service respondents said labor availability was "good."
"Labor shortage challenges are impacting the entire restaurant industry and Caribou Coffee is no exception," the company told Bring Me The News.
This challenge is likely due in part to the ongoing COVID pandemic, and worries about safety — from both the virus and, potentially, angry customers. But the availability of child care may also play a role, as could people simply deciding the work being asked of them isn't worth the pay, evidence of a "labor and workers rights" shortage.
If unemployment benefits are a culprit, there's little evidence those have had more than a very small impact.