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Worker shortage takes a toll on the restaurant industry

The shortage is wearing some staffs thin.

LANCASTER, Pa. — At the popular Lancaster Dispensing Company restaurant, each dinner shift used to include three servers, two bartenders and a host.

Last Friday night, there was one server and a bartender.

“Walking into it my anxiety level goes up,” said server Heidi Ruhl.

In Ruhl’s nearly 10 years working at the restaurant, she said serving was always a grueling job. But now she has to do more jobs than ever before.

“I have to juggle bussing tables, running drinks, running food. It’s hard to run up here when I have these tables up here I have to run past people at the door who are staring at me,” she said, pointing toward the entrance.

Regular customers are understanding about longer waits, Ruhl said. But out-of-towners, not so much.

“They don’t tip as well, they’re a little impatient,” Ruhl said. “I’ll apologize, tell them sorry it’s been so long.”

Owner Judy Ross said advertising open job positions hadn’t drawn in a single applicant.

The worker shortage challenge follows several setbacks for Lancaster Dispensing Co. The restaurant sustained a major fire in 2017 and struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was really afraid we were going to have to file for bankruptcy. I mean, it was so slow some nights,” Ross said.

But Ross said not having enough workers was the most stressful of the setbacks.

The entire staff hopes more job applications will start rolling in soon to get back to normal staffing levels and ease their difficult workload.

"It can be more stressful, but I’m starting to adapt to it," Ruhl said.

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