By Karli Barnett

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Have you been out to eat lately? You’ve probably noticed staffing shortages are plaguing South Florida restaurants.

Not so long ago, restaurants were take-out only, 50% capacity, or outdoor seating only, so comparatively, it may seem like restaurants are back to normal. However, many are still struggling in different ways.

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“When August hit, inflation really was affecting almost every item on our menu, and that is in every restaurant across the nation,” said Carlos Gazitua, CEO of Sergio’s Restaurants.

He says the entire supply chain is still stuck.

“It’s almost like a weekly issue with a particular item,” he explained “This past week there was no silverware.”

In a survey just done by the National Restaurant Association, 80% of those surveyed across the country say they are in worse shape now than just three months ago. They attributed drops in sales to customer concerns over the Delta variant, along with dwindling staff and supply issues.

For the restaurant owners we spoke with in Miami-Dade, the demand is there, but they lack sufficient staff members and supplies to meet it.

The consumer is feeling it,” Gazitua said. “And we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, until the manufacturers are going to be able to ramp up, get enough employees, and ramp up production.”

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He says they are short staffed by about 15%. As he points out, the hospitality industry requires longer hours and working weekends, so it is hard to compete with other employers.

“We are fighting with a lot of chain restaurants that are spending top dollars to get candidates, and it’s been pretty hard to get someone to come out to even have an interview,” said Jay Lam, owner of The Fatty Crab in Doral.

He says they are also dealing with a strain on staffing and skyrocketing food prices, especially as a seafood restaurant.

“When we first opened in March 2021, some of the food has gone up 50 to 60%” he said.

“What we’ve been trying to do that’s worked for us, was to speak with the vendors to see if they can lock in prices for us.”

They, like so many other restaurants, are hopeful for more employees and lower supply costs to keep customers coming back.

With unemployment benefits ending last month, the owners CBS4 spoke with say they hope that will be a factor in bringing them more potential employees.

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According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food service employment dropped dramatically last month nationally, with more than 40,000 employees.

Karli Barnett