Local restaurants struggle with staffing shortage amid pandemic

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Throughout the pandemic, many of Chattanooga’s local restaurants have struggled to get by.

And now, nearly eleven months in, things are just as tough as ever.

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With indoor dining restrictions and many reliant on takeout and delivery, many business owners have said that it’s been difficult to stay afloat.

Elizabeth St. Clair of Charlie’s Barbecue and Bakery says that finding enough employees to work has been a daunting task for not just her business, but the industry as a whole.

“For a long period of time we were only Wednesday through Saturday and that was because we could find anyway to open on Tuesdays. We’re very fortunate now to have a full staff but we may set up twenty interviews and have one person show up. It’s not just us, it’s the whole industry in general,” says St. Clair.

She says that she had to open up indoor dining, since just relying on takeout simply wasn’t cutting it.

“We weren’t going to make it if we didn’t open up inside and do something with the patio and only car hop, it just wasn’t paying the bills,” she says.

Eve Williams, the owner of Mojo Burrito, says that she hopes customers can show compassion for local restaurants, saying that it’s been a learning process to adapt.

“People might be doing something completely different than they’ve ever done. Restaurants can be subject to their operating systems they use, to the Internet, to technology, which is basically how all of this is happening for most restaurants. So they’ve never been in the restaurant business, they don’t realize how many aspects of technology can really interfere and mess things up. That’s troublesome,” says Williams.

Above all else, Williams is grateful that she’s still in business, saying that many others haven’t been so lucky.

“I have dear friends who have shuttered their doors. I see people who have been long standing in this community that I’m just like oh my gosh, you know, it’s terrible.”