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Paso Robles restaurants, hotels struggling to hire staff as tourism increases

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Posted at 8:02 PM, Jul 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-26 03:30:05-04

Hiring for jobs at the California Mid-State Fair has been challenging, and it's an obstacle businesses across the city of Paso Robles are also facing. Restaurant owners and hoteliers are struggling to staff their businesses while business is booming.

"I feel like a lot of people think the pandemic is over, but for businesses, we're still struggling to get on our feet," Brooke Johnson, owner of Brunch in Paso Robles, said.

Johnson admits the greeting customers are used to getting when walking into her restaurant will come with a disclaimer.'

"I do have all of my servers talk to the customers, you know, and just let them know, we're backed up in the kitchen," Johnson said. "We don't have enough people on staff, it might take a little bit longer for things to come out."

On the weekends, wait times can be upwards of two hours. Johnson attributes the lag to being understaffed.

"I have ads up on Craigslist, Instagram, Indeed, and I think I've gotten two applications in the last two months."

Down the street, Debbie Thomas, owner of Thomas Hill Organics says her restaurant is facing the same uphill battle.

"Honestly, we have been extremely busy but due to our labor shortage, we've had to pretty much cut reservations every single day," Thomas said.

The downtown Paso Robles restaurant owner says she feels like the restaurant industry is competing against the government
when it comes to hiring on back of house staff.

"I'll answer them immediately because that's just who I am and I'll say 'hey, can you come in tomorrow for an interview?' And guess what? They don't answer back or they say, 'yes, I can.' And guess what? They don't show," Thomas said.

Tom Keffury, a spokesperson with the California Mid-State Fair, says nearly 500 people were hired to work at the fair this year. That's compared to the 600-plus people who worked in 2019.

"Hiring has been challenging, you bet," Keffury said.

Just this past weekend, an open call for event staff positions at the fair was held to fill last-minute roles.

"If somebody is still on the fence and things change in their personal life, and things change a few days into the fair, they can still go online and fill out an application, we'll still take a look at that and we might be able to hire somebody.," Keffury said.

Hoteliers are also having to get creative when it comes to filling the gaps.

"Part of the way I know I dress each day is not a suit and tie, it's a short-sleeve shirt, it's tennis shoes, it's cross-training, and helping out any way we can to get through the day," Victor Popp, the general manager at La Quinta Inn and Suites, said.

It's a trend that most communities are seeing.

"The workforce board sends out a report and they're showing that there are people available to work, but not many. Not as many as we would like to see," Gina Fitzpatrick, Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce President and CEO said.

Fitzpatrick suggests thinking a little bit outside the box when it comes to hiring back staff.

"So, in the past, it was easy to say I need five full-time people to fill these shifts, and now we need to look at things like I may need eight part-time people and three full-time people in order to fill what I'm really looking for," Fitzpatrick said.

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce CEO said the city recently held a job fair that hosted 78 local businesses in order to give job seekers a more personable, face-to-face experience while applying to jobs. The plan is to hold another job fair at the end of August or in early September.