Staffing shortages leave restaurants struggling even as capacity restrictions are lifted

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Pennsylvania mitigation orders were lifted as of May 31, allowing restaurants to return to full capacity, but many say that’s going to be a struggle. Restaurant owners in the Wilkes-Barre area are feeling pinched.

‘Now Hiring’ signs have been hanging at many restaurants in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.

Eyewitness News stopped by several spots that say they are hurting because of staffing issues. Another problem is the cost of meat has gone up, driving menu prices or cutting items off the menu all together.

“We need two waitresses, a cook in the back, and three upfront,” Abe’s Lunch Co-Owner Scott Druby said.

The remaining staff are now feeling pressure as restaurants open more seats.

“We’re understaffed. People are filing in left and right and expecting the service they normally get,” Chicken Coop cook and assistant manager Sam Griffith said.

Abe’s Lunch on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre says they are sticking to takeout for now.

“Without the help, what good is opening up if we can’t find the help, and we’re not going to be able to serve our customers the way we would like to,” Druby said.

Dave Colarusso’s Pizza and Pasta in Hanover Township had to change operating hours due to staffing issues. Owner Grace Colarusso says they are now open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Hopefully people will start coming back to work,” Colarusso said.

Federal unemployment benefits, availability of higher paying jobs and a recovering local economy are all playing a part in the widespread worker shortage and leaving restaurant employees asking for patience, as well as patronage.

“I think the most important part is to be patient with your staff that’s serving you because they’re under a lot of stress. It’s just been tough all around,” Griffith said.

“The people we have are great, but they can’t do it all,” Druby said.

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