Nebraska Restaurants Struggle to Fill Jobs Despite Raising Wages

Sept. 30, 2021, 4:42 p.m. ·

Photo of indoor dining restaurant. Men in Huskers gear talk to a survey.
90% of Nebraska operators say their restaurant does not have enough employees to support its existing customer demand. (Photo Courtesy Citta' Deli in McCook, Nebraska )

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Despite raising wages, nearly all Nebraska restaurants are still struggling to hire people. Staff are working more than one job, some owners are doubling as dishwashers, and restaurants are reducing hours.

Nebraska restaurants don’t expect to get back to normal for at least another year, according to September's National Restaurant Association survey.

Zoe Olson is the Nebraska Restaurant Association executive director. She said restaurant owners noticed a decline in customer demand for indoor dining in recent weeks because of the rise in coronavirus cases from the delta variant. But, there are other problems too.

"I have restaurants in Omaha, in the Old Market area that used to be open for lunch and dinner," she said. "They're only open for dinner now because they do not have enough staff to staff both shifts."

More than 8 in 10 Nebraska restaurants said they need 10% more staff, and nearly 4 in 10 said they need twice that. Olson said almost 90% of Nebraska restaurants have higher wages now than before the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there’s still a shortage of staff.

"There are people working harder and working more hours to do the same job. It's just that's the way it is right now," Olson said.

The association has restaurant owners who are doubling as servers, dishwashers, maybe even chefs to keep the doors open. Some have reduced operating hours to give their overworked staff a break.

Olson said they’re hurting right now and asks guests to save some room for grace for the people serving them.