Busy weekend of events means big business for short-staffed hospitality industry

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — From the Sanford International, to Midwest Honor Flight, an Uncle Cracker concert Friday and the Luke Combs concert Saturday, it is a packed weekend of events in Sioux Falls.

“The north end of town has been waiting for things to come back to life,” South Dakota Military Heritage Alliance Executive Director Brian Phelps said.

This weekend the events are back in a big way.

“Tonight we’re going to have a packed house, near capacity with nearly 1,000 people here to watch Uncle Cracker and two opening acts,” Phelps said.

Then more than 11,000 people are expected to attend the Luke Combs concert at the Denny Sanford Premier Center Saturday night.

“The country concerts always bring excited people to town,” Sheraton Hotel’s Director of Sales & Events Jennifer Karli-Layne said.

Those excited concertgoers are once again filling Sioux Falls’ hotels.

“It’s actually the entire city,” Karli-Layne said. “We’ve called around to a few other properties just to see if anyone has any extra rooms and I think everyone is sold out.”

But in the midst of a worsening worker shortage, the big question is, do these businesses have enough staff to handle the influx of visitors?

“We hope so,” Karli-Layne said. “Everybody is working every department, everyone is helping out wherever we can, extra hours for everybody.”

While both fans and businesses are excited to see so many events coming back to town, they also say its a challenge to serve all the people who come.

“Everyone is thankful for the business, but we’re very concerned that we can provide the level of service that we want to for our customers,” Phelps said.

Phelps could use more cooks and servers for day to day operations at The Alliance. Down the road at The Crooked Pint, the manager says she has two cooks when she should have seven and the restaurant is short about four servers. That makes operations difficult on a normal night, but on a busy weekend, its  even more challenging.

“To run a big concert like we’re doing tonight, I had to make phone calls to my friends and my family, people I know and say, hey you want to come be a bartender tonight?” Phelps said. “So yes, we have friends and family working our bars here this evening for the concert.”

Similar staffing stress is being felt all over town. 

“That’s the high pressure, when you’re flipping a house from Friday to Saturday, both sold out nights, its pretty intense, but our housekeeping does a great job,” Karli-Layne said.

Despite the challenges, these businesses are confident the staff they do have will help everyone have a great weekend.

“We ask our customers to bear with us, hang with us, we’re doing the best we can,” Phelps said. “We’re working with who shows up for work that day and we will find a way to make it good for you.”

The visitors in town for the concerts, the Sanford International and other events in town this weekend are also expected to bring a welcome boost to retail stores around Sioux Falls while they’re here.

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