Facing staff shortages, Austin-area hospitality businesses hold large-scale hiring events

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Shift Meal is hosting a job fair Tuesday in hopes of filling dozens of open positions for various restaurants and hospitality industry businesses. The group first launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to help feed those in the hospitality industry.

There are 20 restaurants and hospitality-based businesses including Swift’s Attic, W Austin Hotel, Wu Chow, Home Slice Pizza, Lenoir, Plaza Colombian, Rosedale Kitchen & Bar, Yard Bar, Slab BBQ, Spec’s Wine & Spirits, Reunión 19, Salt & Time, Hillside Farmacy, El Chile Group, Quality Seafood Market, L’Oca d’Oro, Bar Peached, Bufalina Due, Texas Keeper Cider, Hank’s Austin and more participating.

The Steeping Room will also be looking to hire. Amy March, the restaurant’s co-owner and founder, plans to reopen for indoor dining on Thursday. But in order to do that, she will need additional employees.

“Everybody is hiring so people have their pick,” March said.

When The Steeping Room closed down last March, it went from nearly 40 staff members to just three. Today, March is about halfway there with 18 employees, and only some of those are previous employees who worked with her in the past.

“10 to 15% of the staff no longer work here,” she said about the changes the industry is facing.

Not only have people moved away, Mandi Nelson, the founder of Austin Shift Meal, said they have seen people leave the industry altogether.

“I think there’s a combination of things going on,” Nelson said. “I think a lot of people have maybe left the industry because it was one of the first industries that got hit hard early on and shut down.”

“That was traumatic for workers,” March added looking back at when things first shut down last spring. “It was scary for workers in the service industry, and the food and beverage and entertainment. It was scary for owners and operators, I did not know if in two months I was going to have a business.”

Many in the community have speculated as to what is the reason for the slow labor return, but March said she understands it’s a “complex” issue. She said she will focus on doing her best and hiring employees in hopes of eventually returning to a normal everyone remembers.

“I think that it’s really, it’s complex, and I don’t think that we can easily tie it up with one explanation or another. For me, I think I have to let people live their lives and run a good business,” she said.

Tuesday’s job fair will be the first of monthly events Austin Shift Meals plans to host. They ask those who would like to attend to please RSVP online. The event will take place from 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Yard Bar on Burnet Road.

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