LACONIA — Rich Ray, Faro Italian Grille owner, said staffing has been a serious issue for the past two years. This summer has been worse, though. It recently became so bad that he made the decision to close his restaurant at the height of summer, when he should be capitalizing on the busiest time of year.

A piece of paper posted on the locked front door reads: “Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control we are forced to close for the season. We have exhausted all efforts to hire help but with the lack of that happening and college students returning to school we simply can not provide the level of service we strive to provide.” The note encouraged those looking for a meal to visit the fast-casual Faro Express on Union Avenue.

It’s been three years since he’s been able to hire as many employees as he would like, Ray said, and he and his managers have had to shut down large sections of the dining rooms in order to match the level of available staff.

That has led to frustrated customers who don’t understand why they have to wait an hour for a table in the bar when there’s a room full of empty tables.

Ray said he didn’t have enough waitstaff, and he didn’t have enough kitchen help, either. That left people in the kitchen – where it can exceed 100 degrees in the summer – to try to do the work of two or three cooks each. It got to the point where they would put a chair in the walk-in cooler for when they felt light-headed, he said.

“I just looked at them, and said, what are we doing to these guys?” Ray said. “It just wasn’t right.”

Faro Italian Grille will re-open in May, he said. By then, Ray hopes he will have arranged for a staff of foreign workers to operate the restaurant. In the meantime, his remaining employees will work at Faro Express, while he looks to add a second fast-casual business – which requires far fewer employees – in Tilton.

Closing the main restaurant was painful, he said, but the only sound decision.

“Never in a million years did I want to do it. It’s like a second home to us. Staff is like family, it’s the only thing to do,” Ray said.

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