RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Stepping into Hayes Barton Cafe and Dessertery is like a real-life episode of “Cheers.”

Pictures of long-time customers and their families line the walls.

Co-owner Frank Ballard said they owe everything to them and their loyal staff.

“We got a joke here and a story there,” said Ballard. “After 25 years, they’re not even customers anymore, they’re family and we couldn’t do it without them,” he said.

Hayes Barton Cafe and Dessetery has faced one hurdle after the next over the last few years.

During the pandemic, they weren’t able to move to outdoor seating like other businesses because the sidewalk outside is too narrow. It meant they moved to curbside pickup-only.

“The goal was to make it through COVID. Our sales were down about 25 percent during COVID,” said Frank Ballard.

Frank Ballard said the restaurant was able to keep employees.

Now, they’re facing inflation rates like never before.

“It’s like body punches. You can only take so much as a small business of the body punches, and we thought let’s just try this and see how it goes over,” he said.

Co-owner Marget Ballard said the last couple of years have been the toughest yet.

“Even more so than it was when we opened the restaurant,” said Marget Ballard. She said they’re seeing a 9 to 10 percent increase in supply costs across the board.

“We have been absorbing it for quite a while and we just realized we couldn’t handle it anymore and continue what we were doing,” Marget Ballard said.

It’s why they’re adding on a 3-percent fee to every check.

“To cover the full cost would be 10 percent but to me, that would be way too drastic. Three percent covers the basics,” said Marget Ballard.

Staying afloat as a small business is hard when the price of everything keeps going up.

“Chains get things in bulk, get reduced prices and we’re paying week-to-week. It’s tough,” said Frank Ballard.

Hayes Barton Cafe has tried making adjustments to the menu where they can. They moved from crab cakes to roasted salmon cakes when the price of crab went up.

They considered increasing the cost of all their menu items but because of supply chain issues, prices and availability are unpredictable.

That would have the business potentially re-printing menus every week, costing them even more in the long run.

The Ballards said this 3-percent fee is the biggest thing that can help them right now.

“Once prices stabilize, we’ll get rid of that. We sure will,” said Frank Ballard.