HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – There are a lot of “help wanted” signs in restaurant windows in Harrisburg and the surrounding region, but the reasons for the staffing shortages may not be what people think.

Staci Basore is one of the owners of Rubicon, Mangia Qui, and Suba on North Street in Harrisburg. She said the restaurants had 55 employees before the pandemic. Now they have 11.

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

Basore said there is a perception that restaurant workers decided to stay home and collect unemployment, but that might not necessarily be the case.

“We had people who did some thinking about their careers during the shutdown,” Basore said. “They decided to pursue other opportunities.”

Where did they go? Basore said distribution centers are one common place to which restaurant employees transitioned. “You have other companies offering $25 to $30 an hour, plus benefits. That is impossible to compete with,” she said.

Basore said the employee shortage has had an impact on service. “We have seen people get frustrated, because they see empty seats, but don’t get seated,” Basore said. “We don’t fill all the tables because we don’t have the people to provide the quality service.”

Basore said she is not sure if her restaurants will ever get back to their pre-pandemic staff levels, but they will continue to hire as many people as they can.