ST. LOUIS ( -- As summer ramps up, restaurant owners across St. Louis tell News 4 business is booming but they’re struggling to find employees. Several restaurants are cutting back on their hours as open positions remain unfilled and current employees are overworked to fill in the need.

At Chris’ Pancake and Dining in South City, owner Chris Saracino said they used to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. But due to staff shortages, he’s had to close the restaurant three hours early. He said it comes down to valuing the quality of service over the quantity of customers.

“If your staff is tapped, tired and stress it’s going to effect the service and we don’t want that we want to maintain our quality standards,” Saracino said.

The owner said he’s filling the gaps – as a host, server and cook to help keep the restaurant afloat. He’s encouraged to see his customer base larger than it was before the pandemic – but wishes he could find people to serve them.

“We are working them 13 hours a day sometimes 6-7 days a week and it’s not a quality of life I was comfortable with having them away from their family that much,” Saracino said.

His downtown location, Chris’ at the Docket is closed on Tuesdays to give current employees a break. If the hiring headache continues, he worries he’ll have to close his South City location one day a week too.

Restaurants across the St. Louis area are making similar adjustments. Lewis and Clark’s on Main Street in St. Charles is now closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On the Hill, Guido’s Pizzeria and Tapas is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

In Kirkwood, Bob Menendez owns Sunset 44 Bistro and Banquet and said he’s filling in as a host and cook. He expanded his patio during the pandemic to make up for a loss in sales but now said he doesn’t have the staff to wait on the larger number of customers he can seat. He said interviewees will fill out applications and never show up.

“Out of 35 interviews, out of 60 people you’ve evaluated one might show. If you’re lucky, two,” Menendez said.

With federal unemployment benefits in Missouri ending this Saturday, he’s hopeful he’ll get more potential hires soon. But Menendez isn’t holding his breath.

“There used to be an old saying, 'once you make it to Paris, you’re not going to come back to the farm.' Once you’ve been paid to sit at home do you really want to come back?” Menendez said.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

News 4 Reporter

Emma Hogg is a general assignment reporter for News 4 St. Louis

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