Omaha restaurants struggling with staffing shortage as business picks back up

Omaha-area restaurants say they're having trouble filling jobs, and it's affecting their business.
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 9:11 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Restaurant owners across the nation and right here in Omaha say they are starting to rebound with more and more customers feeling safe enough to dine in.

After a devastating year, they are facing another hurdle: a staffing shortage crisis.

“business is coming back faster than our workers are,” said Zoe Olson, Nebraska Restaurant Association executive director.

The Nebraska Restaurant Association says the jobs are available. But there are not enough people willing to fill those positions.

Restaurant owners like Mitch Tempus say it’s taking a toll.

“We are really struggling to maintain the level of business with the amount of staff we have right now,” said Mitch Tempus, Fernando’s owner.

Restaurant owners say this is the worst shortage they have ever faced.

The Nebraska Restaurant Association says there could be a number of reasons, from increased unemployment benefits to the fact that many servers left the industry at the start of the pandemic.

“They may have gone to work in the grocery industry. We had the grocery industry ask us for workers because they were having such a hard time keeping food on the shelf,” said Olson.

Restaurant owners and employees say they are doing their best to keep up with demand. But they say they only expect to get busier in the coming months.

“if we don’t have enough servers we can’t get to the people in a timely manner and with summer coming around we are going to have patios open. We just need more and more,” said Katie O’Connor, Timber general manager.

Business owners say they are doing all they can to get employees in the door. Some are offering sign-on bonuses. Others say they are making the pay as competitive as they can.

They aren’t sure what to do next.

“We are paying people at probably a premium price now. So as much as any other business out there in other industries. So, I don’t know what the solution is.”

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