PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – On the road to recovery, local restaurants continue to work to fill staffing needs.

Nearly two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, for restaurant owners, recovery is no easy task.

“It’s a struggle. The prices of everything we use has gone up across the board, that’s not just for our restaurant, that’s everybody,” said Matthew White, owner of Dac’s Smokehouse.

Despite hardships, some are finding success. Dac’s Smokehouse recently opened a new location in Morton which includes a full-service bar.

“The community really knows us, stands behind us, and really supports us,” White said.

Amid a national worker shortage, White said his new restaurant has been fortunate to add jobs, and while it has been challenging, there’s been luck filling them.

“We have a few people from Peoria that have come over here to Morton. For the most part, it’s created all new jobs,” White said.

At Lariat Steakhouse in Peoria, staffing numbers have also improved but owner Dan Kouri said COVID-19’s impact is still present.

“Pre-COVID, we would have a stack of applications we could thumb through. Now we don’t have a stack of applications, it’s sparse,” Kouri said.

Now that staffing is improving, Kouri’s business is entering a new phase. “Now it takes about six months to get them trained properly,” Kouri said.

Kouri said for the restaurant industry to progress in 2022, he believes that’s up to the government.

“The government needs to get out of the way and let the business take care of business,” Kouri said.

Despite some areas improving, Kouri said it will take another full year before his restaurant is somewhat back to normalcy.

In the latest U.S. jobs report, jobs in the foodservice industry rose by 43,000 in the month of December.