Denver has $1.5M plan to lure workers to restaurant industry

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — As restaurants across Colorado show continued signs of recovery from the pandemic, some are struggling to accommodate the growing demand for sit down dining. Many lost staff during the pandemic. Some workers shifted to other industries and others remain unemployed.

Fewer employees for a larger workload can raise the cost of overhead.

Denver’s Department of Economic Development and Opportunity is taking bold steps to draw workers back into the hospitality industry with a $1.5 million plan.

Executive Chef Adam Vero of Denver’s Guard and Grace restaurant tells FOX31 he needs more staff to handle the bustling crowd.

“We can teach people to do all things we need, teach them the skills, that’s easy for us, it’s just hard to find people that want to do that right now,” Vero said.

The restaurant, named best steakhouse in Denver seven years in a row, and twice named one of the top 25 steakhouses in America is part of the TAG Restaurant Group, which includes Los Chingones, Bubu, Hashtag and FNG.

Human Resources Director Jennifer Moloney told the Problem Solvers extra staff is needed to meet growing customer demand for in-house dining. 

“We’d like to do that seven days a week but we can’t with the staffing challenges,” she said.

City council approved a relief grant program that will pump almost $1.5 million into the market.

As part of the “Denver Back to Work” project, the city contracts with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation and Colorado Event Alliance through which cash grants of up to $10,000 each will go to Denver employers.

Deborah Cameron of DEDO tells FOX31 the idea is “to help them retain staff that they’ve had through he pandemic, to reward them for staying on the job and to hire new employees.”

Grants are estimated to provide $1,500 per worker, affecting about 950 employees and 140 restaurants this fall.

“The resources themselves get directed to the workers who are doing the work, which we’re extremely excited about,” Cameron said.

DEDO explains that local employers applying for the program must submit with a bonus plan to the granting association, the CRF for restaurants and hotels, and the Colorado Event Alliance for caterers and event companies.

Some employers are even beefing up benefits and increasing wages to encourage residents to apply. The Colorado Restaurant Association estimates 25% of restaurants may be forced to closed due to staff shortages.

DEDO says lower-wage workers stand to gain the most benefit from the program because they are more likely to have hours reduced or remain unemployed because they can’t do virtual work.

Employers can learn more from the Colorado Restaurant Foundation at www.corestaurant.org or CO Event Alliance at www.coeventalliance.org .

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