The Student News Site of University of Nebraska at Kearney

The Antelope

The Antelope

The Antelope

COVID-19 presents challenges for students in food service

The Market at 27th adjusted its food serving process to enforce social distancing and decrease risks of spreading COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the restaurant and hospitality industry. From small mom-and-pop diners to big corporate chain restaurants, the pandemic has been challenging for everyone.

Many students who attend UNK also work either part-time or full-time at local restaurants in Kearney.  

“Working at a restaurant during a pandemic was very weird and interesting, to say the least,” said Caroline Reed, an elementary education major.

After the first shutdown  ended last spring, restaurant workers were hopeful for a normal summer. The pandemic continued to make its way across the United States and slowly shut down day-to-day life. Shortly after the lockdown, many state and local governments implemented regulations to try to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Nebraska restaurants face many different types of restrictions. After the first shut down, restaurants were only permitted to open for 50% capacity and a mandatory distance of six feet between tables. In the months that followed, the state restrictions changed, and as of Feb. 4, 2020, restaurants may open at 100% capacity, though a mandatory six feet distance is still required between tables.

Kearney’s city council passed a mask mandate last November that is set to expire on Feb. 23. With a mask mandate in place at the county level and a few restrictions on the state-level, restaurant workers prepared to continue serving during this pandemic.

The pandemic has done catastrophic damage to the service industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, between March and October last year, food services and drinking places have lost over $130 billion in sales compared to 2019 during the same time frame.

Many restaurants across the United States have managed to stay open thanks to multiple stimulus bills passed by Congress and the support from the community. The growing number of cases and the no-travel recommendation from the Center of Disease Control made restaurant workers weary about how the holiday season was going to unfold.

Even with restrictions in place, restaurants in Kearney remained open during the holiday season, promising well-deserved business to local establishments.

“We had a surprisingly busy holiday season, even with COVID and all we were still able to serve our guests over Christmas break,”said Madison Kucera, a UNK student and a bartender at Cunningham’s on the Lake.

Not every restaurant worker was as lucky to have a busy holiday season as Kucera. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of November 2020 around 2.1 million people lost their restaurant jobs due to either long-term closings or permanent closings.  

As the hospitality industry continues to fight through the pandemic, restaurant workers continue to try to stay positive during these hard times.

“We have an amazing community, the people of Kearney never fail to support us, when we closed for dine-in, our regulars continued to support us by ordering take-out and such,” Kucera said.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Antelope

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Nebraska at Kearney . Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Antelope

Comments (0)

All The Antelope Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *