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Hospitality industry struggling to find workers as COVID restrictions ease

As businesses in the hospitality industry ramp back up, there are real concerns from restauranteurs.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The hospitality industry is facing a real crisis when it comes to hiring workers, and many restaurants are in jeopardy of having to close for good if there isn't a turn around on the hiring front. 

As businesses in the hospitality industry ramp back up, there are real concerns from restauranteurs like Brian Ingram, who owns four different restaurants in St. Paul.

"It's so challenging right now trying to get folks that want to come back into the restaurant industry," said Ingram, the owner of Purpose Driven Restaurants. "We thought everybody would be just wanting to get back to work."

That's the issue, many people don't want to return to the industry after a year off.

"A lot of the folks are afraid of another shutdown because once you go off unemployment it's difficult to get back on and get your benefits going again," said Ingram. 

"Even though our capacities have come back, when you have six feet of separation between the tables it doesn’t even matter," said Ingram. He went on to say, "We have managers that have gotten completely out of it and gone into it, we have one person that just went and got a real estate license during all of this."

"We're still down 100,000 jobs and this is normally a 1 in 10 job industry in Minnesota, 300,000 jobs," said Liz Rammer, CEO of Hospitality Minnesota. 

For Ingram, it's become a a bidding war among those in the industry.

"People are paying more for cooks and more for servers," said Ingram. 

Businesses are doing what they can to recruit and retain workers.

"We're doing incentives for our staff that if they bring somebody in and they make it 90 days we'll give them 500 dollars," said Ingram. 

It's a matter of doing whatever it takes to survive, as many restaurants potentially won't if supply doesn't meet the demand.

"Some of these folks right now are having to close different day parts because they don't have enough workers," said Rammer. 

"We want everybody to know they're invited, we don't care if you have experience or anything... we want to train folks and we want to work with folks," said Ingram. 

Ingram hopes the Governor's announcement on Thursday eases up on capacity limits allowing workers to make more money.