Downtown Omaha restaurants struggle to stay staffed during College World Series

The College World Series is always a win for restaurant owners in downtown Omaha but this year they're struggling to stay staffed.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 5:41 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Downtown Omaha restaurants are struggling to survive the worker shortage during the College World Series.

At Rocco’s Pizza and Cantina, the CWS is usually a homerun for owner Kevin Culjat.

“It’s by far your busiest time of year,” Culjat said.

This year, his busiest money maker is colliding with the national worker shortage.

“It’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare. It’s a dog-eat-dog world trying to find employees.”

So Culjat got creative and turned CWS into a family affair.

“It’s hard to staff but I’ve got 13 relatives that have come in from all over the country. I’ve got my sister-in-law from North Carolina, and I’ve got my son and his girlfriend from Las Vegas. "

And that’s not all.

“Fortunately I coach high school football so I’ve got a bunch of my players, a bunch of my ex-players coming in to help or I’d be in big trouble.”

It’s a similar story at Hook and Lime.

“We are maxed out on our staff,” Manager Catherine Ryne said. “Like, all hands on deck right now. I have a lot of people working overtime hours. People working 12-hour days, 14-hour days.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, at least half of restaurant owners expect the worker shortage to last at least a year, if not longer.

The silver lining is many restaurants in downtown Omaha are doing better than ever.

“So Friday we had a record sales day and we beat it immediately the next day on Saturday,” Ryne said.

At Rocco’s, there’s a never-ending flood of customers and a place for staff to crash at night.

“All at our house,” Culjat said. “They come in shifts. So half of them work the day then they go home and all the day people that were sleeping come back and work the night home and we get home. We kind of pass in the dark.”

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