MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida restaurant owners and managers are running short on employees. So much so, that they are incentivizing new hires with bonuses.

South Florida Regional Director at Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Lynn Hernandez says restaurants do not have enough staff to meet demands.

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“It is bad enough that businesses are limiting their capacity, their operating hours, closed on days they are normally open. Not enough staff to meet the needs of our guests,” said Hernandez.

The issue lies in that many of the long-time restaurant workers are making more money living off of unemployment and other state and federal subsidies offered during the pandemic.

In order to qualify for these benefits, workers have needed to limit their hours at work.

“It is desperate. We are competing with federal unemployment. Some of our workers tell us they are making more money staying at home, than returning to work,” said Hernandez.

The issue is not confined to South Florida, it is a nationwide dilemma for restaurant owners.

A National Restaurant Association survey released in February found there were 2.5 million fewer restaurant jobs nationwide as of Dec. 1 than during the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association estimates 600,000 Florida workers were laid off and 10,000 restaurants were forced to close. Statistics released by the U.S. Department of Labor in late March showed that fewer than half of those lost jobs have returned.

In Texas, Zee Aziz restaurant owner said restaurant workers went to construction sites or other jobs that pay more. “Also, they like to be outside and away from the crowded areas like the restaurants are to protect from COVID.”

In Indiana, meanwhile, it is equally hard to find restaurant employees.

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“Hiring to secure new employees has been atrocious,” said Patrick Tamm, Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.

“There are a lot of individuals seeing some great benefits from unemployment, state and for the first time we have seen ever federal unemployment,” Tamm said.

So, what to do here in Florida? What is the Florida restaurant and lodging association advocating?

“We asked Florida Senator Rick Scott and Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen to please note that unemployment benefits need to be monitored. We need folks to come back to work,” said a representative from the restaurant association.

Restaurant owners are said to be working with high schools, trade schools, and even homeless shelters to find employees.

“Many of our restaurants and hotels are offering incentives and competitive rates for folks to come back,” said Hernandez.

Some restaurants are offering signing bonuses.

CBS4 tried to get a number of restaurant owners to comment for this story, but none would. They said it would make their businesses look bad.

Understaffing, they said, would send the message of slow service, but all wanted the word out that they are hiring.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)