Aug 31, 2022 - News

Colorado restaurants even more short-staffed amid back-to-school

Illustration of an empty cash register with it's display flashing "HELP".
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With Colorado students headed back to school, already short-staffed restaurants are losing much-needed workers.

Why it matters: Restaurants are still struggling to survive from the pandemic's toll — and a dearth of hired hands this fall might mean they won't make it through winter.

What's happening: Local employers are struggling to fill vacancies and limiting business operations as summertime workers cut back or quit to focus on school.

  • The seasonal shift means most restaurants in the Centennial State are left severely understaffed and scrambling to fill positions — all while battling inflation, according to August data provided to Axios Denver by the Colorado Restaurant Association.

What they're saying: For many local restaurants, prospects have never looked worse, CRA spokesperson Erin Dewey told Axios Denver.

  • "We have even heard that it is harder to find and retain employees now than it has been at any point since the pandemic began," she added.

By the numbers: Nearly two-thirds of Colorado restaurant operators say their businesses don't have enough employees to support demand.

  • More than 75% of restaurateurs statewide say their job openings are difficult to fill.
  • Meanwhile, 97% report labor costs exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The big picture: Businesses nationwide are wrestling with worker shortages as students return to the classroom.

  • Nationally, 60% of restaurants have reduced hours of operation, while 38% are closed on days that they would normally be open, according to August figures from the National Restaurant Association.

What to watch: The gaping holes in the labor market locally and nationwide are forcing business owners to increase wages and provide other incentives, like more vacation days, to attract — and retain — employees.

The bottom line: When you go out to your favorite restaurant, "please be kind and patient with the people serving you; they are doing their best to provide you great service with a reduced team," Dewey said.

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