CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — The pandemic is still having an impact on restaurants in our area and across the country. According to the National Restaurant Association, 78% of restaurant operators said they don’t have enough employees to support customer demand.

“They can’t seat as many people as they normally seat because they don’t have the staff to wait on them or maybe in the kitchen,” said Becky Jordan, while enjoying a meal with friends on Capitol Street in Charleston, W.Va. “It seems like wherever I am traveling it is like that everywhere.”

Just about anyone who goes out for a meal has likely noticed the impact of widespread staffing shortages. In some cases, it means fewer tables and longer waits. But those in the industry said they hope customers will be patient.

“Folks are trying to provide the service they normally would as quick as possible, but understand that a lot of places are short-staffed,” said Richie Health, Executive Director of the West Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association.

At Soho’s, Tracy Abdalla said things don’t seem to be getting any better when it comes to staffing. “We have gotten more applications but it is still just as tough as it has been over the last 18 months or two years to get people to work,” he said, adding that the core team is stretched thin.”They are working really a ridiculous amount of hours. It is not fair and I hate that they do it. But they are so dedicated to this place. We are blessed to have them.”

Restaurant leaders are hoping customers will keep supporting local businesses and the people who are there to provide them with good food and a positive experience.

“Every restaurant I know is trying,” Abdalla said. “They are trying to get employees. But sometimes when you just don’t have enough people, you just don’t have enough people.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, another challenge for restaurants is the increase in the cost of food. Nationally 91% of operators say they’re paying more for food.