"This is such a resilient industry."By Andrea Alvarez

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – It’s no secret the pandemic and fluctuation of supply and demand have had a significant impact on the restaurant and lodging industry throughout the country. But what does that mean for Florida in 2022?

“This year, 2021 has been another challenging year,” said Dannette Lynch, Director of Membership for the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. The pandemic annihilated restaurants across the country. And after shortages on product and staffing, it’s hard to believe many businesses found a way to stay open. Some weren’t as lucky.

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According to the National Restaurant Association, approximately 90,000 restaurants closed permanently. And despite any recent gains, overall staffing levels remain well below the industry standard with 84% of owners saying current staffing levels are lower than pre-pandemic levels.

“But this is such a resilient industry and they’ve learned to be so creative,” said Lynch. Those who work in the hospitality industry expect a bounce back in 2022.

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Roberto Torres is a vital part of that industry with a batch of small businesses across Tampa Bay.

“We find ways to connect with our customers,” said Torres who owns a the Cass Street Deli in Tampa among other shops. At the brink of a new year, he’s optimistic. Not only did he get creative in the face of a pandemic, he plans to open an additional store in the coming months.

“Even though that it was a very rough year for everybody, to me personally, it was an opportunity, you know, it was a teaching moment it was an opportunity to educate ourselves on to things that are important. And the things that you can do without,” said Torres. “Business owners always find a way to thrive and succeed. As long as there is a drive.”

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“The outlook for 2022, is really looking positive. I think the challenges they have faced have given them a new outlook and perspective of what to expect,” said Lynch.