With Cal Poly’s commencement ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday, thousands of friends and families of graduates have made their way to the Central Coast to celebrate. Those friends and families are giving a boost to San Luis Obispo’s local businesses.
“It’s much bigger than any other weekend, because people are celebrating. People are getting together," chef and owner of Mama’s Meatballs, Nicola Allegretta, said.
Local restaurants say they’ve been packed with customers all weekend.
At Hotel SLO, they started to book out for Cal Poly’s graduation last year.
“People are booking a year out for graduation weekend with Cal Poly,” said Hotel SLO manager David Smith. “Probably by the end of August we’ll have this weekend next year booked out.”
Local businesses prepared weeks in advance by ordering more inventory and taking reservations.
“I made sure everything was stocked and that we have everything on the menu. I also hired on an extra person to help,” said Lotus owner and operator, Alexandra Nguyen.
However, across the board, they are still struggling with being short-staffed.
“Staffing has been tough. I think it has been for everyone right now… but we’re constantly interviewing and constantly looking for more associates right now,” said Smith.
Restaurants and hotels looked back on how “quiet” business was at the beginning of the pandemic last year, when Cal Poly’s graduation was virtual.
“Last year we barely felt the graduation weekend. It was very quiet. Pretty much like a normal day,” said Nguyen.
“The hotel was very, very quiet. It was just coming back after being able to reopen and occupancies were very, very low,” Smith added.
Business owners added that much of the local economy has always been stimulated by Cal Poly students and their families.
“We have to say thank you so much for Cal Poly, the students, the parents, for being here and to support the local economy,” said Allegretta.
Local businesses say the next boost they’re looking forward to is when tourists come to visit the Central Coast this summer.