Restaurant staffing shortage in San Antonio compounded by latest Covid-19 surge

Managers report increase in employees calling in sick

SAN ANTONIO – Like many restaurants in San Antonio that have struggled for months to hire new workers since the lockdown ended, the staff shortage at Nicha’s has been compounded by the latest COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant.

“Makes things even more difficult because now we have staff members feeling ill, not coming to work,” said Nicha’s General Manager Michael Elizondo.

Fortunately, none of the employees have tested positive for the virus, Elizondo said.

“To keep the rest of our staff and our customers safe when they’re not feeling well, we give them the day off, and the next day if they need it,” he said.

Elizondo said he’s never seen anything like this in his 20 years in the restaurant industry.

“Never, never. We’ve been under staff a couple of times in the past, but it doesn’t last long. A week, two weeks maybe, never for this duration of time,” he said.

Justin Clark, Nicha’s head server, said, “We just continuously lose employees because of what’s going on.”

As a result, he said, others are working extra trying to cover for those who can’t be there.

“People are just tired,” Clark said.

Kelsey Erickson Streufert, spokeswoman for the Texas Restaurant Association, said Nicha’s is hardly alone.

“There’s no doubt this is a tough time for restaurants across the state,” Streufert said.

As it is, she said the Texas Restaurant Association estimates 9,000 of the state’s 50,000 restaurants didn’t make it through the pandemic.

What’s happening now, Streufert said, is “the latest twist and turn on the roller coaster that has been COVID 19.”

Even so, Streufert said the association continues to assure the public the industry is doing whatever it can to keep everyone safe through its Texas Restaurant Promise, the industry’s COVID-19 health and safety policy.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.