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Omaha hospitality industry as season ramps up: 'We're definitely not enough staff for what's coming'

The Berkshire Hathaway meeting is over, but more tourists are headed our way
Posted at 7:06 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-02 20:06:31-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha just welcomed thousands of visitors for the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders' meeting. It was a fitting start to National Travel and Tourism Week. More tourists are headed our way with the Midwest's biggest horse event this weekend and the College World Series in a few weeks.

But, local restaurants admit, there's not enough staff for what's coming.

"We don't have enough workers, period," Zoe Olson, the Executive Director of the Nebraska Hospitality Association said.

The unemployment rate for Nebraska is two percent, according to the Department of Labor.

Olson admits it will take time for restaurants to get adequately staffed.

"We do not expect, though, that it's back in the way we would like it until probably sometime in 2023 — summer in 2023 — or maybe the end of 2023," Olson said.

Olson expects restaurants and hotels will change how they operate to eliminate any issues.

"You'll see more automation in — or technology used — in restaurants and in hotels, for example. When you go to a hotel, you may check with your cell phone, everything's done online. You don't have to wait in line to check-in," Olson said.

Cutchall Management owns restaurants like Paradise Bakery & Cafe, Jams and Oklahoma Joe's BBQ. Director of Operations John Sgourakis says their locations have at least five to 10 open positions.

"We're definitely not enough staff for what's coming," Sgourakis said.

Sgourakis admits that it was tough serving Berkshire Hathaway attendees.

"Typically we're so overstaffed, we're ready for it. This year, our kitchen could feel it. Our front-of-house staff could feel it, our bartenders could feel it," Sgourakis said.

How do you make up for it? Everyone works a little bit harder and hopes that customers can be more understanding.

"From managers to servers to hosts to bartenders, everyone works double shifts. They work on the weekends, even if they don't want to. It's taxing, it makes our staff extremely tired," Sgourakis said.

"Let's put that in perspective, shall we, and say this is not that big of a deal and say, if I have to wait a little bit, that's ok," Olson said.

The Nebraska Tourism Commission reports visitor spending through October of 2021 was more than $3 billion.

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