Many Wellington restaurants are open for reduced hours because they've either run out of staff or there is not enough foot traffic to justify being open.
Some have been forced to close for days at a time as the Omicron outbreak spreads across the city.
Floriditas co-owner Dominique Fourie McMillan said working out how to stay open was the only thing on her mind.
"It's so pressing, and so urgent, and so catastrophic, that it's hard to think of anything else."
"The moment we close our doors we remove ourselves from the market completely and we have no chance of making even a dollar, so closing is literally the last thing any restaurant owner wants to do. It is the worst feeling in the world."
The Cuba St restaurant has made the tough decision to close for dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from this week.
The Government has announced the isolation period for Covid-19 cases and their household contacts will be reduced from 10 to seven days from midnight today.
Fourie McMillan welcomed this but said staff isolating was only part of the problem.
She had lunch in Floriditas on Wednesday and was one of three tables when usually there would be a wait list to get in on a sunny day like it was.
Shifts where up to six front-of-house staff worked, now required only one person, she said.
"We don't have enough hours to give our staff who are healthy and able to work."
Some eateries have the staff but not the customers, while some have the customers but not the staff. The worst position some are facing is having neither staff or customers.
So, some restaurants across the city have been sharing staff to help each other stay open and keep people employed.
Fourie McMillan said the current situation felt like a "lockdown by stealth" and she hoped people could move past the fear of Covid-19 to live their lives as normally as possible, now the majority of the population was vaccinated.
"We definitely did feel like we were part of the team of five million [during the first lockdown]. This time around it feels like the hospitality industry has been tossed overboard without a lifeboat. It's an absolute battle to get up every day and just plod on."
Last month Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced a new round of support payments for those who have experienced a sharp decline in revenue, paying out businesses $4000 a fortnight plus $400 for each employee up to a maximum of 50 employees. There will be three payments.
Sweet Mother's Kitchen has been closed for some of this week because there were not enough front-of-house staff available to work.
"We've run out of staff," the restaurant posted on Facebook. Owner Diana Parker told the Herald she was just taking it day by day.
"We'll be open by the weekend but again it's going to depend on how many staff are isolating. It might be me working day and night, which is fine.
"I'm now worried what's going to happen is my kitchen is going to get sick and I'm only going to have front-of-house staff."
But Parker said there were still people coming out to eat at the restaurant, which was very much appreciated.
The reduced isolation period for Covid-19 cases and close contacts was helpful, she said.
"That's three days of trade pretty much for us, so that's huge."
Earlier this month Highwater eatery had to close one night "due to a large number of cancellations during an already quiet time".
Highwater has been offering a limited set menu for dinner because of staffing shortages.
Olive changed its weekday opening hours early on in the piece at the beginning of February.
The restaurant decided to temporarily remove breakfast three days a week while it navigated the traffic light system red setting and a quieter CBD.
The situation isn't necessarily any better in the suburbs, either.
Park Kitchen, in Miramar, has made the decision to close its restaurant until this coming Monday to manage staff shortages.
To support them, Park Kitchen said people could invite friends to like their page, write a review on Google, or recommend the restaurant to others.
Hospitality New Zealand Wellington branch president Paul Retimanu said businesses had been reducing their hours for a while now, many switching to winter hours shortly after the move to the red traffic light setting.
"With Omicron starting to feed through in the last two weeks what you're starting to see is a lot of the operators now have between 15 and 25 per cent of their staff out.
"That's been exacerbated in the CBD area when you bring in the 23 days the protest has been on, so it's been a perfect storm coming at the operators for a number of weeks now."
Retimanu said the sector was feeling the impact of a reluctance to go out, and the Monday to Thursday market was suffering from more people working from home.