Boardwalk businesses faced with staffing challenges, food shortages as tourists flock to the beach

Restaurants struggle to hire staff, inundated with customers

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - The restaurant industry has been through a lot over the past year, but the tide is beginning to change for many business owners as more people look to dine in.

There are plenty of obstacles in the path of restaurant owners, but there’s been no shortage of customers; staff members say they’ve been seeing crowds comparable to July 4th weekend every day for the past two weeks.

However, after months of serving nothing but takeout, a handful of restaurants in Carolina Beach just cant handle it anymore as summer crowds funnel in early.

”Nothing is routine right now. We literally come in every day and say ‘OK what’s the issue that we have to deal with today and how do we fix that so the customers aren’t affected by whatever problem we’re dealing with?’” said Sarah Bentley of Buzz’s Roost.

Bentley says they had to stop doing the to-go orders last week when they saw how much it was hampering their ability to serve their customers in-house.

Businesses like Buzz’s Roost face myriad of challenges: staffing is tight, the hours are long, and lately, restaurants are having trouble getting certain food items in to serve their customers.

”Wings,” laughed Bentley. “We can’t get wings.”

Staff over at Nauti Dog on the boardwalk agrees — chicken wings have been difficult to find. They also report seeing higher meat prices and paper products are on back order.

“This weekend I was going back-and-forth to every Publix, Food Lion — other grocery stores — in order to find chicken wings because we ordered two cases from our distributors and none of them had any in stock to ship to us,” said Michael Urti, co-owner of Nauti Dog.

Despite the stresses and shortages though, people in the restaurant industry say the crowds of tourists flocking back to the boardwalk is a great problem to have.

“With spring break, in the past two weeks, we’ve had our best weeks of business since we opened this business in 2019 — which has been awesome, but it’s been very challenging as well,” explained Urti.

No business ever wants to turn away hungry, paying customers, but in this case, nixing takeout orders is the best way these restaurants have come up with to serve the people sitting at their tables.

“We’re doing the best we can. And that’s all we can do, you know. We want to make everybody happy but at the end of the day you just can’t,” said Bentley.

The shift to cutting out to-go orders is expected to be temporary. Many business owners hope to bring back takeout orders sometime in the future.

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