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State labor shortage is slowly improving

State labor shortage slowly improving
State labor shortage slowly improving(WBRC)
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 3:02 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s still an on-going issue with so many of our restaurants and diners, the shortage of workers, but there are some encouraging signs the hospitality industry is coming back after the pandemic.

It’s a good problem to have if you’re in the food business. Urban Bar and Kitchen is 98% staffed, and the owner thinks he knows why.

It’s one of the more popular places to eat in downtown Tuscaloosa, waitresses on the go, taking orders, delivering drinks, and Hannah Wells wouldn’t have it any other way. Wells finds her job enjoyable and fun.

“Great food. I love the management,” said Wells.

“We’ve seen both sides of the coin,” said owner Gary McGee.

The very thing owner Gary McGee wants to hear. In fact, McGee is convinced the reason he has 98 percent staff is because he doesn’t consider his employees at just numbers or robots.

“We get to know our employees on a first name basis and their last name basis. We get to know their extensions which is their personal families,” he said.

Still, Gary McGee admitted he could use at least five more team members.

“We’re always going to hiring for servers and we’ll always hire culinary artists,” he said.

And therein lies the problem across the spectrum within the hospitality industry. A number of restaurants are hungry for more waiters and cooks.

It’s been a tough road since the pandemic, but there are encouraging signs, according to Tara Hutchison. The industry is coming back, although it’s slow. The state’s jobless rate is now a record low, standing at 2.8%.

“We’re seeing those increases month over months. We’re continuing to see new records set in the industry as far as how many people are employed,” said Hutchison, Communications Specialist for the Alabama Department of Labor.

Urban Bar & Kitchen bills itself as the ‘place to meet.’ It appears the proof is in the pudding with a low turnover rate, a loyal staff combined with a simple business philosophy.

“We get to know who they are when they come to us,” said McGee.

A winning recipe in the face of a labor shortage.

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