[caption id="attachment_218533" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Jeff Gosnear | PHOTO COURTESY OF GROTTO PIZZA[/caption]
REHOBOTH BEACH – Delawareans may remember 2021 as the year the Dolle’s store on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk was sold and the iconic sign was removed.Jeff Gosnear, vice president of Grotto Pizza, is going to remember the year a little differently.“It was an exciting and trying time to be sure,” he said. “It was a busy year with the opening of a new store, the commissary and trying to find ways to remain open with the staff that we had. And who we had gave 110%.”Grotto Pizza may now own 1 Rehoboth Ave., but much of the year was dedicated to consolidating its production in Dover, and opening its Millsboro location after pandemic-inspired delays. The restaurant company is a Delaware titan and one of the top employers in Sussex County with more than 1,000 employees.But a labor shortage drove down those numbers and forced the pizza chain to make hard choices. At times, the boardwalk location stayed closed on weekdays. Other hours were cut short. When summer began, the Millsboro store finally opened – and a season began of employees driving to Grottos all over the state to pitch in.Looking to the future, Grotto Pizza will transform its training, namely looking into best training practices, like video aids. The labor shortage has also inspired him to look into updating operations with technology, like the possibility of artificial intelligence menu orders by phone.“We might be in this place where we have to expect fewer people on the cook line. And if you can’t rely on that, technology may help us out. If you don’t change with the times, then you’re going to fall behind,” he said.As for the Dolle’s block? Gosenar said he hopes a more concrete plan will emerge in the next six months.“It’s an opportunity for redevelopment, but we’re not sure what that is going to look like. And we have one shot to do this right and maximize that parcel,” he said.