Staffing shortage forces Mario’s Pizza to skip Balloon Fiesta

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mario’s Pizza was hit hard during the pandemic.

“We have four locations and, generally, before COVID, we were up to about 175, 180 people,” said Eddy Burgarello, owner of Mario’s Pizza. “Now we’re down to maybe 100, so we’re probably short about 50 people. 40 to 50 people.”

Despite the staffing shortage, all four restaurants are still running, but the lack of employees is keeping Mario’s Pizza from being a vendor at this year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Balloon Fiesta has been a tradition they have been a part of for more than 30 years.

“I just love the event, love being a part of that event, I mean, my family and I are all a part of it,” Burgarello said. “We get up at three in the morning to make breakfast burritos and all that. It’s just very sad for us to not be there.”

This isn’t the first year staffing shortages kept them from the biggest event in New Mexico.

“We’ve missed five years so far,” Burgarello said.

For Mario’s Pizza to return, they would need about 20 extra employees just to work the event.

“We cook and prepare everything on site and that’s why it’s pretty labor intensive,” Burgarello said.

The staffing shortage isn’t even due to a lack of applications.

“They are out there putting applications out but when it comes to the interview part, a lot of them don’t show up,” Burgarello said. “It’s very frustrating because it’s very time consuming for my staff that sets up these interviews and wait, and nobody shows up.”

Burarello is not giving up hope that one day they will return to Balloon Fiesta Park.

“We still have the equipment, we have a lot of money invested in the equipment,” Burgarello said. “I don’t want to just let it go, so we’re holding onto it. Our plan is to go back someday, and, you know, I keep saying it, every year I hope we can go back next year.”