Nebraska's unemployment rate is 2.9%, according to the Department of Labor — well below the 6% national rate. A low unemployment rate sounds great, right?
The restaurant industry is having a particularly hard time finding employees. Drive anywhere in Omaha, and you're bound to see hiring signs.
Greg Cutchall, CEO of Cutchall Management, said this is the worst he's seen in 40 years in the industry. His company owns more than 40 individual restaurants including First Watch, Jams and Spud Nutz.
“It’s always been a challenge in Omaha with our low unemployment to begin with,” Cutchall said. “But recent events have sent it in the stratosphere.”
At one of his restaurants, Jams Legacy, servers used to have three tables. Now it's not unusual for them to have more than five.
“We think our guests are aware of our issues and hopefully will be understanding,” Cutchall said. “My restaurants, as many, are not delivering the service that we would like to both at our quick-service restaurants and full service.”
Tables sit empty during the lunch hour at places like Qdoba. They've had to resort to only accepting lunch orders through the app because they don't have enough people working. Other restaurants are closing early or closing entirely.
“It's just kind of a matter of survival — to hang on to the people you got and try not to overwork them,” Cutchall said.
It's hard to pinpoint the problem. Cutchall thinks it's perhaps the perception of lack of growth or good unemployment benefits.
“I think as benefits run out that will help for sure but I think it’s going to be a long-term problem that needs to be addressed,” he said. “One of the challenges we have is people making an appointment to come in for an interview and then just don't show up. I think that is part of the unemployment issue — they are required to go out and apply so they are applying — they just don't really want to work.”
He is hopeful students can help fill some of their open positions, at least through the summer. He hopes the flexible hours and opportunity for growth encourage them to stick with it.
Cutchall Management is looking for employees for many of their restaurants including Domino's, First Watch, Jams and Oklahoma Joe’s. You can see all of the job openings and apply online.