RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- While businesses such as Winston's Grille continue to face employment and supply chain challenges, they're grateful for the return of guests and customers.
"We don't have a problem with people returning and venturing back out into our restaurant. The problem we have is accommodating that much business because we just don't have the staff. We'd like to say we'll be able to ramp up for the holidays, but right now it's kind of tough," said co-owner Charles Winston.
The restaurant, which just celebrated its 35th anniversary, is seeking that uptick in demand in the return of holiday parties.
"We have booked a lot of parties for the season, but yet we've got to manage the parties because we don't have enough people to take care of them correctly," said co-owner Wil O'Neal.
They previously made the decision to close Sundays, their second busiest day, to avoid overextending their staff.
"The hardest part right now going on for our industry is being understaffed, just being overworked, being burned out, being stressed out," said Winston.
Early in the pandemic, the restaurant took steps to keep its staff employed, despite being unable to open.
Pointing to decreasing COVID-19 cases -- and noting that nearly 90% of staff is vaccinated -- they're urging Raleigh leaders to drop the mask mandate, believing it could boost staff morale, create a more positive dining experience, and help with hiring. Shortly after our interview, the Town of Cary announced plans to drop the mask mandate beginning Friday.
"Standing over a hot stove, working in the kitchen long hours, trying to give good customer service through a mask," Winston noted of the difficulties the mandate presents. He added that if a mask mandate were to be dropped, unvaccinated employees would remain masked.
Winston and O'Neal are hopeful that students off for break may be able to provide some short-term help, though largely that consists of those who previously worked at the restaurant.
"We can't even get (people) in the door to apply. We advertise just like everybody else in this business. If we had (applicants), we'd hire them," O'Neal said.
Down the road, Alpine Ski Center is already seeing customers preparing.
"Because of the supply-chain issues last year, customers are more prepared to buy early this year because of the supply-chain issues for this year," said store manager Todd Theede.
Theede said they faced hiring challenges in 2018 and 2019, though largely rebounded last year. However, they are again looking to hire people.
"We are certainly trying to new steps. We're trying new hiring platforms. We're adding hiring to our e-mails that we didn't need to do in the past," said Theede.
They have signs posted both in and around the store advertising hiring.
"We are looking for everything from clothing, equipment sales, to working in the rental or repair department," said Theede.
Both Winston's Grille and Alpine Ski Center expressed gratitude that they have a lot of experience on their staff, which helps address some limitations.
Staffing shortages have done little to dull enthusiasm; the National Retail Federation is predicting a record-breaking holiday sales season.