Why Colorado restaurants can't catch a break

Alayna Alvarez
·2 min read

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: John Frank/Axios

Restaurants in Denver, Fort Collins and across Colorado face "enormous" hiring and retention challenges, reflecting a broader national trend, the Colorado Restaurant Association tells Axios.

The big picture: It comes as restrictions are loosening and diners are returning to restaurants — and despite high employment and a massive push to hire back staff and bring on new employees, especially as the summer patio season approaches.

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

What they're saying: Between Eddyline Brewery's two operations in Buena Vista, staff has been slashed by about 50%, causing the taproom to stay temporarily closed, owner Brian England told Axios.

  • He recently hosted a virtual job fair that drew in zero applicants.

  • "Even if we quadruple our wages — nobody's applying," he said.

By the numbers: The leisure and hospitality sector was hit hard by the pandemic lockdown and is partly why Colorado's unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 6.4% in March.

  • Restaurants posted about 25,000 fewer jobs in March compared to the same point in 2019, an Axios analysis of labor data shows.

  • There currently are more than 3,500 jobs listed within the food preparation and serving industry on Connecting Colorado, a state- and county-run job board.

Between the lines: Multiple factors may be contributing to the shortage in staff, experts say:

  • Generous unemployment benefits may be more than workers made at their former job.

  • Workers could be reconsidering their careers and leaving the industry for good.

  • People may feel fearful of returning to work and the health risks that they could face.

What to watch: The restaurant association is looking at ways to help the industry overcome the issue, including lobbying the state to offer incentives — like hiring bonuses — to get people back into hospitality, Axios has learned.

Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.