Downtown Cleveland restaurants struggle with worker shortage ahead of NFL Draft

Downtown Cleveland restaurants struggling with worker shortage ahead of NFL Draft
Posted at 5:15 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 19:28:32-04

CLEVELAND — The NFL draft is likely to bring a big tourism boost to Cleveland next week and establishments all over downtown are gearing up to host fans and spectators.

But there’s just one problem with that, many businesses in the hospitality industry are facing a worker shortage, like LULO Kitchen and Juice Bar.

Chef Stephanie Guerra and her husband Mario Montoya opened the restaurant a month and a half ago.

“It's a mix of the Latin cuisine. We're from Colombia, but we want to bring Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and flavors here to town."

They said it's been a challenge to open and staff a new restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think one of the big issues is that there's a lot of competition for labor currently,” Montoya said. “We're competing against Amazon and DoorDash and Uber and UberEats and so naturally it's been very hard early on to build a team.”

Restaurants nationwide have been struggling to hire new employees.

The Ohio Restaurant Association said that’s due to a couple of factors, like COVID-19 health concerns and increased unemployment and stimulus benefits.

With vaccinations ramping up, warmer weather on the way, and the NFL draft coming to town, downtown establishments are expecting a big surge in business very soon with not enough hands to help out.

“No one's persevered more than these businesses. They've got the tenacity to do it,” Deb Janik, the senior vice president for business growth and development at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, said.

The Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance are teaming up to help those businesses before and after the draft by creating a web page dedicated to connecting job seekers to jobs in the hospitality industry.

“It's a chance to leverage the uniqueness of the draft, but it is a site that will stay active long after as we work collectively to drive growth opportunities for the businesses that call Cleveland home,” Janik said. “We're going to be working feverishly to attract as much employment, as much qualified job seekers to those businesses in need so that, again, they can give the best experience possible and build off this momentum to ramp back up to full time operations.”

Montoya and Guerra filled out a survey to be featured on that web page along with about thirty other establishments and they’re hoping it helps them add more longtime members to their team.

“We want to serve people properly. We want to give them the right experience, and we can't do that without having the correct team in place,” Montoya said.

LULO Kitchen and Juice Bar are hiring a line chef, cooks, bartenders, servers, dishwashers, and a few managerial positions.

More information about the Greater Cleveland Partnership and Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s web page supporting downtown businesses can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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