By Mariah Melendez
Cheshire Herald staff
CHESHIRE — The pandemic has taken an immense toll on the restaurant industry.
Some restaurants are experiencing a shortage of customers and staffing. With the summer coming to an end, many college-aged workers are returning to school and leaving some local establishments scrambling to fill jobs.
“We are trying our best here, but it’s really hard to keep our head above water,” said Tony Futia, owner of Vespucci’s Restaurant on Main Street. “We have our steady take-out client-base, but I want to get open and serve customers, and I just don’t have the staff for that right now.”
Vespucci’s closed its dining room 18 months ago and has not yet been able to serve customers inside.
“People call me every day and ask when we are going to be open again. I tell them, ‘As soon as I have enough workers,’” Futia said. “The problem is that I get a few people who want to work, but I need 10 or 15, not two or three.”
Futia has had to use high school-aged employees as opposed to more experienced staff.
“It’s insane … we’ve been here for so long and we’ve never experienced something like this,” he added.
Local café owner Linda DeSilva also had to begin using younger staff as college students returned to campus.
“As if we didn’t have enough issues with the pandemic, now we don’t have enough staff to keep us open,” said DeSilva, who owns and operates Main Street Caffe.
“It’s really bad, but it’s really bad everywhere,” she said. “You go out to the Cape (Cod), and those places are only open for a few months out of the year and they are also having issues. I used to be open until 7 or 8 p.m., but not anymore.”
Now DeSilva closes around 3 p.m.
C.J. Sparrow Pub & Eatery, also on Main Street. has been able to keep all its staff throughout the pandemic.
“It’s something that we’re incredibly proud of,” said owner John Miller. “There are some people who needed to leave for various reasons, but everyone who wanted to stay on staff was able to, and we’ve been pushing take-out and regular dine-in service for a while now.
“I work in the beer distribution business during the day and (COVID-19) has just decimated so many local bars and restaurants,” he added. “I am just lucky enough that my staff has been so dedicated to continuing to work throughout.”
Miller credits his success to his staff, their resilience during the pandemic, and their ability to adapt to ever-changing guidelines.
“We never really closed down for good. We always had something going, whether it was take-out or something else. We always tried to be available, and I think that is what saved us,” Miller said.