September 19, 2022

It's Monday.

☀️ Today's weather: Hot, like always. Sunny with a high near 98.

Hope you're hungry. We've got lots of food news for you.

Today's newsletter is 951 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Restaurants continue to face labor shortages

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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

Why it matters: The local leisure and hospitality industry has more employees than ever before, but restaurants are still struggling to bounce back from the pandemic, and labor shortages across the industry — now coupled with higher costs for everything — continue to hurt business.

What's happening: Recent data from the Texas Restaurant Association found that just over two-thirds of the state's restaurant operators do not have enough employees to support customer demand.

  • The group surveyed restaurants from July 14-Aug. 5.

What they're saying: The figure has remained fairly consistent in recent years, but back-to-school season tends to exacerbate those shortages, according to Kelsey Erickson Streufert, spokesperson for the Texas Restaurant Association.

  • "We're an industry that does rely quite heavily on students and young people — summer jobs, part-time jobs," Erickson Streufert said. "At the same time, [customer] demand tends to fall pretty significantly around this back-to-school time."

Zoom out: Restaurants nationwide are wrestling with worker shortages as students return to classrooms.

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

The good news: Texas' rapid growth has allowed the leisure and hospitality workforce to surpass pre-pandemic levels, according to U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics data.

  • The Austin area employed 140,000 leisure and hospitality employees in July 2022, the latest data available, up from roughly 137,000 during the same period in 2019.
  • Yes, but: Demand has grown significantly, and employee growth hasn't been enough to meet restaurants' needs, Erickson Streufert said.

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.

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2. We really like to eat at restaurants

Change in OpenTable U.S. restaurant bookings since 2019
Data: OpenTable; Chart: Axios Visuals

While restaurants face labor shortages, Texas customers remain hungry to dine out.

The big picture: Austin's OpenTable restaurant reservations continued to soar since 2019, surpassing statewide and national bookings.

  • Austin diners are now dining out 50% more than pre-pandemic levels, the latest data shows.

Why it matters: While the fight rages on over going back to the office, other areas of our lives have returned to something like normal.

Flashback: Restaurant bookings earlier this year were roughly 14% higher than their pre-pandemic levels, meaning the number of reservations has only increased since then.

3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Austin Fire officials said Crow Bar faced extensive damage in a fire Sunday. Photo: Nicole Cobler

🚒 Austin Fire Department officials launched an arson investigation after multiple fires were set in South Austin early Sunday, including one that caused extensive damage to Crow Bar. (KVUE)

💸 The metro area's unemployment rate decreased from July to August, hovering at 3%, according to data released by the Texas Workforce Commission. The figure remains below the state and the national unemployment rate. (KXAN)

🚨 Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon vowed that the city "will not see a repeat of the events of 2020," announcing department changes in response to that year's racial justice protests. (KUT)

🏈 The University of Texas spent nearly $280,000 on a blowout weekend in June to impress nine potential football recruits and their families, including Arch Manning. (The Athletic)

4. Live Nation's new Club Pass includes local venues

Joe Depace and Andrew Fedyk of Loud Luxury perform in concert at Emo's in 2019. Photo: Rick Kern/Getty Images

Live Nation recently unveiled its Club Pass, a new initiative to give fans general admission to shows at local venues for cheap.

The big picture: The passes will be available starting at $59, and give fans general admission access to shows from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 at one venue of their choosing.

  • A multi-club pass is available for $299, which gives customers access to shows at all participating venues.

Zoom in: Two Austin venues — Emo's and Scoot Inn — will participate in the program, and passes go on sale at 12pm today.

  • Five other venues in Texas have also signed on, including Houston's 713 Music Hall, San Antonio's Aztec Theater and House of Blues Dallas.

Of note: Each venue has a limited number of passes available, so start refreshing that page.

Fresh job openings around town

🤿 Dive into a new role with our Job Board.

  1. Sr. Brand Manager at Super Coffee.
  2. Keeper II/Keeper III at Austin Zoo.
  3. Senior Marketing Manager at Zilker Partners.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Post a job.

5. Finding the perfect croissant

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This month we drew attention to the heavenly croissants at Word of Mouth Bakery — and asked for your favorite croissants. As a service to our readers — we should all be so lucky to start our days with flaky goodness — we share the collective wisdom here.

Amy B. touts Abby Jane Bake Shop in Dripping Springs.

  • "It's the best bakery in the Austin area for my money. The bakery also proudly uses flour from Barton Springs Mills (which is on the same property) to showcase the versatility of locally milled grains. Grab a loaf of bread and anything else that looks good — you won't be disappointed."
  • Adeena R. chimes in: ​​"There's a special pleasure in driving out to Abby Jane Bakeshop on a weekend morning and eating a chocolate croissant on a picnic bench among the trees."

The patisserie Julie Myrtille Bakery, in Springdale General, gets Miguel L.'s and Tina P.'s endorsement.

Former Austin newscaster Jenny Hoff tells us to head to Baguette et Chocolat off Bee Caves Road. "No question."

A couple of people recommend the croissants at Paris Baguette by the ACC at the old Highland Mall — "mighty fine," says Robert M.

Austin City Council Member Chito Vela recommends the croissants at old standby Quack's.

And Blair C. just about made our hearts burst.

  • "Waiting for the return of Texas French Bread."

Thanks to Lindsey Erdody for editing and Kate Sommers-Dawes for copy editing this newsletter.

✈️ Asher returns tomorrow!

🥪 Nicole misses G's Dynamite Deli and wants to know your favorite spot for a big ol' sandwich.

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