Apr 21, 2021 - News
Why Colorado restaurants can't catch a break
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: John Frank/Axios

Restaurants in Denver, Fort Collins and across Colorado face "enormous" hiring and retention challenges, reflecting a broader national trend, the Colorado Restaurant Association tells Axios.

The big picture: It comes as restrictions are loosening and diners are returning to restaurants — and despite high employment and a massive push to hire back staff and bring on new employees, especially as the summer patio season approaches.

What they're saying: Between Eddyline Brewery's two operations in Buena Vista, staff has been slashed by about 50%, causing the taproom to stay temporarily closed, owner Brian England told Axios.

  • He recently hosted a virtual job fair that drew in zero applicants.
  • "Even if we quadruple our wages — nobody's applying," he said.

By the numbers: The leisure and hospitality sector was hit hard by the pandemic lockdown and is partly why Colorado's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 6.4% in March.

  • Restaurants posted about 25,000 fewer jobs in March compared to the same point in 2019, an Axios analysis of labor data shows.
  • There currently are more than 3,500 jobs listed within the food preparation and serving industry on Connecting Colorado, a state- and county-run job board.

Between the lines: Multiple factors may be contributing to the shortage in staff, experts say:

  • Generous unemployment benefits may be more than workers made at their former job.
  • Workers could be reconsidering their careers and leaving the industry for good.
  • People may feel fearful of returning to work and the health risks that they could face.

What to watch: The restaurant association is looking at ways to help the industry overcome the issue, including lobbying the state to offer incentives — like hiring bonuses — to get people back into hospitality, Axios has learned.

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