Hôtellerie industry in Lincoln still strong despite challenges | logis affaires infos

Doug Evans is happy to quote you this statistic: About 80% of restaurants fail within five years. In fact, 60% of them don’t even make it to their first birthday.

But he doesn’t expect whoever he’s involved with to be one of them.

Tom Meistrick, local Firehouse Subs franchisee, stands with his daughter Ashley Meistrick, CEO, at the second location of the Lincoln sandwich chain.

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L’s Kitchen at 17th and Van Dorn Street is a collaboration between Evans, former city councilor Roy Christensen, and a French-born Laurence de Villiers, who ran another restaurant, The Normandy, at the same location.

The restaurant, which opened in April, specializes in “delicious gourmet food,” Evans said, including many familiar dishes with new flavors.

Each person focuses on their area of ​​expertise: Evans on marketing, Christensen on the financial side, and de Villiers on food.

Because of this, Evans said, “we can find a way to make it work.”

A number of restaurateurs appear to be figuring out how to make it work, and a large number of restaurants continue to reopen in Lincoln despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, inflation, supply chain issues and labor shortages.

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A study by local commercial real estate agent Robin Ashliman found that more restaurants opened in Lincoln last year than they closed, for the first time since 2018.

Opening rates are down slightly, at just 26, down from 28 in 2020 and 31 in 2019, but the pace seems to have accelerated this year.

The longtime Village Inn site would become Dunkin’ Lincoln’s sixth location.

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As of May 1, more than a dozen new restaurants had opened in Lincoln since the start of the year, and at least half a dozen more were under development or construction.

These range from family outlets to expanding local operations and new locations for national chains.

One was Firehouse Subs, a sandwich chain that opened a second location in Lincoln in March.

Local franchisee Tom Meistrick, who opened his first location in East Park Plaza in 2016, started working on another at Edgewood Mall in 2019, but then the pandemic came and temporarily put his plans on hold.

But one thing he noticed throughout the pandemic was that “demand has continued to be high.”

Meistrick said his takeaway and catering business was booming, so he didn’t hesitate to open a second location, especially in south Lincoln, where many of his clients live.

“It’s still a good time to open restaurants,” he said.

Zoe Olson, executive director of the Nebraska Hospitality Association, agrees.

“It’s a good industry and I think people see it,” Olson said, noting that the restaurant industry is no different from most other industries, with businesses opening and closing all the time.

But the pandemic has brought attention to the industry, she said, and the media has been widely publicizing the difficulties it has faced.

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“I think the hospitality industry has overwhelmingly come to the forefront of national news, local news, and state news because of COVID,” Olson said.

It also meant restaurant closures, although Olson said she believed that in most cases the pandemic was not the main reason for those places to close.

But it’s no secret that the industry has lost customers, whether it’s because of emergency health measures that have restricted in-person dining or customers who have been wary of eating out due to the risk of contracting the disease.

Research shows those fears have eased, with people returning to restaurants this year after avoiding them for the past two years.

A report by TOP Data, a company that provides business, consumer and marketing information, shows that restaurant visits in Nebraska grew nearly 21% in 2022 compared to 2021, the seventh-highest increase among states.

“Business is back and we’re learning how to deal with it,” Olson said.

One way restaurants are coping with business growth and a shortage of workers is by using more technology.

Examples of this are menus accessed via QR codes, as well as ordering and paying at tables, and customers will continue to see more innovation, she said.

But restaurants still need bodies, and Olson said workers are starting to return to the industry.

As of March, Nebraska’s restaurants employed 7,300 people, the most since the pandemic began, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Some local restaurants that went out of business during the pandemic cited the inability to find enough workers as one of the reasons for the closures.

Both Evans and Meistrick said their restaurants were able to find enough workers, with Evans saying he considers talk of a labor shortage “false narrative”.

“All you have to do is pay people a fair wage and they will work for you,” he said.

Contact the author at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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