As Austin businesses look for a boost ACL weekend, they’re also navigating a critical shortage

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Like many other local business owners, Amanda Wadsworth is looking forward to being at Austin City Limits Festival again.

“It’s like this iconic festival in Austin, and being an Austin original brand, we just love being a part of ACL,” she said.

Tiny Pies has a new menu for the festival — a key lime pie freeze, chicken pot pie and spinach ricotta pot pie, along with sweet pies. But Wadsworth says preparation for the anticipated event has been tricky this year.

“We have front and back house staff at ACL, and it’s been harder for us to pull from our kitchen team to have our kitchen team at ACL,” Wadsworth explained. “And so, we’ve had to kind of train up some front house team to support the kitchen at ACL.”

Wadsworth says she’s short about six bakers and has trimmed her menu, as a result.

“We used to offer, you know, 14 or 15 sweet flavors per day, and about five to six savory, and we’ve had to trim that back a little bit so that our production in the kitchen can be more streamlined,” she said.

It’s a challenge many in her industry are facing. The Texas Restaurant Association calls it a ‘critical’ problem. In new data released this week, it says 72% of restaurants in the state report they don’t have enough employees to support current customer demand.

Tiny Pies is offering a $1,000 bonus for people who stay on staff through the end of the year, along with health insurance and other perks.

“We are doing a food program, where we will order all of our — like staples, groceries, for everyone on the team through our provider, and then we give it to them at cost, so it’s like saving them on groceries,” Wadsworth said.

Still, she says they usually see a big boost to business after events like this, and ACL is also positioned right before the holidays.

“We’re hoping that we’re adding new customers to our fan base, and that we’ll be shipping pies out for the holidays,” Wadsworth said.

She says her business actually grew during the pandemic.

Others, like Faraz Vohra, say they barely got through.

“Our only goal was to just stay afloat, and hopefully be able to see this day,” said Vohra, partner at Shawarma Point. “I really feel really sorry for a lot of people that I know in this industry that weren’t able to make it through COVID.”

The Downtown Austin Alliance says ACL Fest will be a lifeline for many businesses.

“The revenue that is generated during these festival weekends and event weekends, typically will help carry a business throughout the rest of the year,” said spokesperson Michele Van Hyfte.

That applies to downtown hotels, bars, restaurants and live music venues beyond the festival gates, she said.

“There is some sort of revenue benefit generated by festival weekends like ACL for most of the different types of industries in downtown,” she said.

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