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Lincoln businesses, including restaurants, still struggling to hire help

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Nebraska has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but businesses are still struggling to hire.

You can see ‘Help Wanted’ or ‘Now Hiring’ signs everywhere. Restaurants 10/11 spoke with tell us they’re happy business is back up, but they’re desperately in need of help, which they say just isn’t there.

Around 11:30 a.m. at Cook’s Cafe, the breakfast spot is packed, and staff is always working non-stop.

“We’ve had ‘Help Wanted’ signs out since November,” said Jessica Simon, owner of Cook’s Cafe and Bethany Coffee Shop.

The three servers they have right now wait nine tables each and hit overtime all the time.

“You’re here six days a week, and you’re here 55 hours a week. I feel bad. I don’t want to do that to my staff. I don’t want to burn them out,” said Simon.

The same struggle is also happening downtown at The Oven, too.

“We have servers making drinks. We have bartenders doing to-go stuff. We have bartenders hosting. We have hosts going down to the cellar to buss tables,” said Avni Srivastav, Social Media Manager at The Oven.

Over the past year, The Oven went from having a staff of 14 to eight people.

“Everybody comes in and they want that fast speed how it used to be and the exact same dining experience,” Srivastav said.

Without the help, restaurants told 10/11 that it’s extremely hard to make that happen.

So, why aren’t people applying?

“Realize that these people want to be paid a little more. A little bit of benefits aren’t going to kill anybody. Raise your prices by 50 cents, and pay these people,” said Simon.

Owners like Simon told us that they’re offering benefits like paid time-off and a higher starting pay to get new employees in and motivate current workers to stay.

However, it’s not just the pay causing issues, restaurants say a majority of the people they normally employ also aren’t available.

“Students are out of town as well. During the summertime, it’s harder to get those servers in,” Srivastav told 10/11.

It’s clear restaurants aren’t the only people impacted. Places like grocery stores and retail shops are dealing with the same issues. Lincoln’s unemployment rate is just 2.2%.

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