WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Between the nice weather, the drop in COVID-19 infection rates, and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, people are flocking to restaurants across the state. But, with this return to normalcy, restaurants are facing a new challenge: hiring staff after a tough year. 

“With everything opening up, there’s more demand for people, but not everyone is ready to come back to work,” explained Gina Luari, owner of The Place 2 Be. “So, that has really left the labor pool super limited for us, and finding talent is incredibly difficult at this time.”

Luari recently added a Blue Back Square location of The Place 2 Be in West Hartford — building upon the success she’s seen at her two other spots in Hartford. She’s actively looking for people to join her team. 

“We are looking for full-time staff here, downtown, and the south end,” said Luari. “If anyone is looking, we’re here.”

It’s a challenge restaurants everywhere are facing. Some restaurants and restaurant groups are offering up incentives to retain and acquire top talent in all positions. 

“The other real concern is retaining the people we have because it is so competitive,” said Scott Smith, Vice President & COO of the Max Restaurant Group. “We’re willing to pay more and our competition is also willing to pay more.”

As they’re working to navigate this new normal, they’re encouraging customers to be understanding and patient as this recovery continues. 

“These servers, these bartenders, these owners, and operators are trying to do everything they can to give you the great experience they want to give you when you come out to eat,” said Scott Dolch, Executive Director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association. 

Dolch told News 8 it’s a great time to join the industry. There’s great demand and a wide range of opportunities statewide.