CUMMING, Ga. - Even though Metro Atlanta restaurants have bounced back from the worst periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, they're still facing new obstacles in this new normal.
For Friends American Grill in Cumming, Georgia, loyalty from employees and customers kept them afloat during the recent challenging times.
Owners Ray and Suzanne Stanjevich had to try everything they could to make sure the hit they took in 2020 wasn't a total knockout.
"We had to pivot to delivery all of a sudden which we knew nothing about," Suzanne Stanjevich said.
Once the doors reopened to in-person dining, the couple found themselves working hourly positions.
"So much staff was afraid to come back that he cooked, I bartended," she said.
And the Delta variant once again created a staffing shortage not just for restaurants, but also for the suppliers and vendors.
And shortages in products and supplies are now a reality too.
"There's allotments that are set up. Chicken wings are a great example," Ray Stanjevich said. "If we didn't have eight restaurants it would be darn impossible to get chicken wings in the house. So we get what we get. Sometimes we don't get the brand that we want and you have to settle for another brand because there isn't enough to go around."
"It's hard to stay consistent when you have a great french fry (which we do) but we don't right now because we can't get it. And we've changed french fries and onion rings 18 times in the last two months," Suzanne said.
The limited supply means prices on pretty much everything are going up.
"Gloves! We used to pay $25 a case. They're now $86 a case! Gloves! It's crazy," Ray said.
The neighborhood grill and bar operators say their emphasis is on "neighbor" and despite all the challenges, they're grateful for their loyal customers and employees.
"Support your small business in your community because they won't be there if you don't," Suzanne said with tears in her eyes.
The owners say they've only survived because of dedicated workers who will travel to different locations and pitch in.