Restaurant jobs going unfilled as customers return to dining out

Posted at 10:09 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 23:16:11-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As customers are returning back to local restaurants, employees are not.

Across Omaha, the search for servers, bartenders, cooks, and other employees is leaving some restaurants with no choice but to change their hours or close their doors a few days a week.

John Wade, President of the Nebraska Restaurant Association and Director of Operations for Restaurants Inc., said he's taken more creative measures.

“To try to combat this, I’m doing things I’ve never done before," Wade said. "We’re offering a $1,000 sign-on bonus to any full-time person that comes in and gets hired.”

Wade said this dip in service workers began a few years ago, and the pandemic has caused the shortage to reach levels many owners had yet to see.

“Demand really got aggressive quickly, and we’ve been kind of operating short-staffed and limited in the past year or so," said Corey Keith, co-owner of Corkscrew Wine & Cheese.

With the unemployment rate sitting at 2.9% in Nebraska, the lowest it's been since January of 2020, Wade believes these workers have moved on to other industries. In the Omaha and Council Bluffs area, the latest unemployment rate was at 3.9% in February 2021, compared to 9.9% in April 2020.

Several factors are believed to be contributing to the shortage.

One is that employees don’t feel safe working with the public because of the coronavirus.

Another possibility is with so few people dining out the past year, there was a sense of instability.

“They’re probably looking for some stable, non-tip type income," said Wade.

As owners and managers are searching for that workforce, they’re asking their customers to be kind and patient to the workers they do have.

“The challenge is they’re running at their limits, so we need to hire people," said Keith.

Find out more about available jobs in the Omaha area.

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