We celebrated my wife's birthday Wednesday night by doing something we haven't done as a family in over a year: we walked into Charred Oak Tavern, mouths watering in anticipation of the meal that was to come.

Charred Oak was packed, people standing out on the sidewalk waiting to be seated. Inside, there were no empty tables I could see. It looked like a Saturday night in 2019, but it was a Wednesday night, and it was certainly not 2019. The distinction, not because of social distancing or masks, but because – whether or not customers could see – the restaurant was struggling with staffing.

Charred Oak's front of house looked fine to the average observer. The servers were buzzing around the restaurant and guests were enjoying the super tasty food that has given Charred Oak a well-earned reputation.

To a keen observer, however, there were subtle signs of the struggle. When our server merrily asked it we wanted another round of drinks, she needed to come back and get our glasses because they were running low. The problem? A shortage of dishwashers on the staff.

"We have been so blessed to be able to come out of this as not only just surviving, but thriving. However, unfortunately, the staffing shortage crisis is still very real when it comes to kitchen help," Charred Oak Tavern posted on Facebook. "We are asking you to be patient with us. By us, we don't just mean Charred Oak, but also our fellow restaurants across the country. Our ticket times may be slightly longer than usual, but (we don't want to) rush to get it out and risk the quality meal you deserve."

Jess Arruda and her husband own Tia Maria's European Café in New Bedford. She said she couldn't relate more.

"Our team makes good money," she said. "We're still struggling to not burn out our team/family and us."

"The staffing shortage is real and the challenges of filling those open positions with qualified candidates is near impossible," Arruda said.

So while we know you're excited to get back to your favorite restaurants, please be patient and remember the struggle is not over for the staff.

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