LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The influx of customers after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Kentucky has been welcome for restaurants owners.
At Corto Lima in Downtown Lexington, it finally feels like they're back to pre-pandemic business, according to Marketing Director Brie Lowry Cox.
"People are coming back," she said. "People are hugging each other on the patio and seeing friends they haven't in months."
But the restaurant is still expanding hours and hiring employees in order to fully return to normal.
"As we add more shifts, we still need more people," Lowry Cox said. "I mean, we're not through it yet."
The restaurant laid off 62 people at the start of the pandemic.
"We are now just north of half at about 35. So, we're not fully recovered, but we're also not fully operating hours wise," she said.
The restaurant has had success hiring new employees at a time when many Kentucky businesses are short-staffed, Lowry Cox said, thanks in large part to referrals from longtime employees.
"The staff worked together in a very different way during COVID and it bred a really awesome culture," she said.
The pandemic was a blessing in some ways, according to Corto Lima Chef and Owner Jonathan Lundy, who said it forced the restaurant to adapt.
"We've learned a lot," he said. "We've gotten so much stronger. Back then maybe we were getting a little fat and lazy and this trimmed things out and we got aggressive and had to fight."
It's exciting to move forward now that business has bounced back, he said, but he plans to take with him all the lessons learned.
"The biggest takeaway is remembering to be flexible, change, adapt and willing to jump back in," he said.