‘We definitely can use more servers’: Johnson City restaurants dealing with understaffing ahead of Mother’s Day

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Local restaurants are preparing for the Mother’s Day rush this weekend as they continue to battle staffing shortages.

Many have had to tighten store hours and even close business at least one day out of the week in order to prevent employees from becoming overwhelmed.

“It’s really rough, you know,” Portobello’s Italian Bistro owner Sherif Nassar said.

Since February, Nassar has been missing about 50% of his staff. He and his staff are anxiously waiting for the Mother’s Day rush this Sunday.

“We are not ready. It is a short staff and we don’t know how it’s going to be. Usually, it’s a good day. Mother’s Day is a very good day. Usually, we keep about six or seven employees on the floor to help. This year, I don’t have even three,” Nassar explained.

Because of this, he is putting a pause on reservations this weekend in the event his staff will not be able to handle the influx of customers.

“I might cut off my deliveries, so I’m not going to be able to do deliveries. I might cut off the pickup orders,” Nassar said.

Portobello’s is not alone. Just three miles up North State of Franklin, Aubrey’s is missing about 20% of their staff.

“We’re just going to do the best that we can,” Aubrey’s manager Lorenzo Ramunno said.

The family-style restaurant usually reserves six tables on Sundays. The number of reservations has tripled, due to Mother’s Day celebrations.

“All of the moms, I hope you’re very happy on Sunday. We have a special dinner or lunch for you,” Ramunno said. “We have a lot of key players that are just coming in on their time off. Their days off, they’re just coming in to help us out.”

Ramunno said job applications have also decreased.

Ramunno explained, “We definitely can use more servers, more cooks, more host staff. Really anything, but the people that we have now, they’ve stepped up and we’re just going to go all out and do the best we can.”

Johnson City’s Mad Greek location is also dealing with low staffing. The restaurant manager told News Channel 11 he had not seen a job application in weeks.

The Small Business Administration’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund opened its portal this week, allowing hard-hit restaurants to get needed help from the government.

However, it is not just restaurants struggling with staffing as recovery appears to be going slower than many economists expected.

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