How a restaurant solves the staffing problem

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Covington, Kentucky — The labor shortage that worsened during the pandemic is affecting every corner of Greater Cincinnati. As the downtime is lifted and more and more customers begin to eat, it has hit the catering industry particularly hard.

According to the mid-year update of the National Hotel Association, three-quarters of operators said that despite the increase in employment, recruiting and retaining talents are the biggest challenges they face.

This trend continues even after the federal pandemic unemployment benefits for these workers ended, and the move is aimed at getting more people back to work.

However, there is one place that completely avoided the shortage of personnel: Covington’s agave and rye.

“It’s all about brand and culture, right? People want to enjoy where they work,” said Chris Britt.

Britt is the director of operations there.

Just across the river, Tony Castelli, marketing director of the Earth and Ocean Restaurant Group, gave us a glimpse of the labor struggle before customers arrived.

“We hardly have enough employees to make ends meet,” Castelli said. “Our team is working hard every day. I mean, they have been here since 9 in the morning, just loading and unloading boxes, not necessarily part of their job description.”

He said that if there were not enough people to serve, the company would actually have to stop making money.

“If 1,000 people came to this building tonight, and we only have two servers and one bartender, then the chance of these 1,000 people coming back is almost zero,” Castelli said.

Related | Labor Day marks the end of federal pandemic unemployment benefits

So how do agave and rye avoid this trend?

“We currently provide huge benefits,” Britt said.

In industries where many people earn minimum wages and have to rely on tips, Agave and Rye provide health insurance, paid vacation, retirement plans, gym memberships, and employee assistance programs, including childcare and elderly parent care.

“They need to know that they are safe, their families are safe, and they have a future,” Britt said.

This is setting standards around the city.

E+O also plans to adjust the benefit structure and plans to provide bonuses.

“This industry is changing, and I think it will get better,” Castelli said.

WCPO 9News asked whether tequila and rye will affect profits in the long term.

“It doesn’t,” Britt said. “Because we don’t have that much turnover, right? Losing employees or team members requires spending a lot of money to bring in new employees and training.”

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