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Why your favorite bars and restaurants might still struggle, despite a business boom

Why your favorite bars and restaurants might still struggle, despite a business boom

Jack McLaughlin

If you’ve driven through Columbus at all in the last few weeks, you’ve more than likely seen the signs.

Phrases such as: “open interviews all week,” “we pay daily,” and “all you need is a pulse” are plastered across restaurant marquee signs from Hague Avenue to James Road.

With COVID cases once again trending in the right direction and business picking up, our favorite bars and restaurants want to start hiring a wave of new employees as they begin to reopen fully, but it’s just not that simple.

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“When I first put hiring ads out, it was almost impossible to get a resume let alone someone to come in for an interview,” said Lindsey Gerhard, bar manager at The Citizens Trust. “After about two months we were able to hire someone and even then needed to rush train them because business was picking up rapidly.”

Part of the issue, according to Tony Tanner—owner of The Butcher & Grocer and Cleaver, both in Grandview—stems from the fact that, as restaurants closed or cut hours at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitality workers were forced to change fields to find work.

“So many have left the industry altogether that the talent pool has decreased substantially. It’s been very difficult to find servers and bartenders in the current environment,” he said.

And for many businesses, Gerhard believes, these challenges don’t appear to be mere short-term issues, as many businesses have already dealt with hiring issues for months. “It truly feels like a long-term issue of ‘we want to open finally but if we can’t find staff, there’s no way to keep the industry alive and breathing,’” she said.

For Gerhard, these staffing issues couldn’t come at a worse time. She’s noticed that customers itching to get back out into the world tend to expect pre-COVID levels of service. And right now—in the restaurant business—that’s just not something many can provide.

“However I will also state that even though staffing has been hard and we’re working harder than we’ve ever done, customers have been mostly less than understanding, and I’ve noticed much more demanding—[I assume] from being stuck inside and antsy—but it is definitely a tough time,” she said.

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