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As Outdoor Dining Is Extended, Restaurants Struggle To Find Staff, Supply

BOSTON (CBS) - It's hard to imagine a silver lining coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for restaurant owners: outdoor dining has been a saving grace. "It's a beautiful thing," owner of North End's Dolce Vita Francesco Graceffa told WBZ.

Outdoor dining -- and "to go" cocktails -- will be the norm in Massachusetts for at least several more months. On Wednesday, Governor Baker signed a compromise bill from legislators to extend some of the most popular pandemic restrictions. Outdoor dining will continue until at least April 2022.

While these extensions are beneficial for the hard-hit restaurant industry, the reality of being back to business has come with some speed bumps: namely, staffing and supply.

Take the situation in Duxbury, for example. Oyster farmers, who struggled with spoiling crops and no orders throughout the pandemic, are now overwhelmed with orders from restaurants. "When the pandemic hit it was devastating, and now we can't keep up with the demand," Oyster farmer Don Merry of Merry Oysters told WBZ.

Restaurants, on the other end of the supply chain, aren't just dealing with a lack of food: but a lack of staff. "We have a big problem," Graceffa explained to WBZ. "I need at least two, three waiters. I need a couple bus people, people in the kitchen, simple things."

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association says the struggles to meet demand are expected given the quick bounce back to business nationwide. "It's due to every restaurant going from 60 percent operating to 100 percent operating at the same time," MRA president Bob Luz explained. "You know, you just can't do that across the entire state, across the entire country, and across the entire world."

Luz explained that restaurants are asking customers to be patient in the coming months as the industry works to get back to normal with all the challenges. "It's allowing supply chain to catch up to demand," he explained. "We won't put the guest experience at risk, so having patience is really the priority we're asking for our staff and our guests."

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