The Charleston Metro Chamber’s Doing Business Better event series partnered with Post & Courier’s Doing Business LIVE to discuss the labor shortages in the hospitality industry. Emily Williams, Reporter with the Post & Courier and moderator for the event’s panel discussion, wrote the follow up content below.
Hospitality employers in the Charleston area say they have been struggling to staff up since early this spring, when tourists and diners started coming out in large numbers again as coronavirus case numbers dropped and vaccinations became more available. There has been a lot of discussion about exactly why the sector is experiencing an acute labor crunch. Today, The Post and Courier brought together a panel for our Inside Business LIVE series to talk about some of those reasons and possible solutions to staffing shortages.
Our panelists were:
- Dan Blumenstock, Director of Hotel Operations at Lowcountry Hotels
- Tina Heath-Schuttenberg, Owner Gui Wei LLC, the parent company of Kwei Fei and Mincho CHS
- Daniel Guttentag, Director of the Office of Tourism Analysis at the College of Charleston
- Stacey Fraunfelter, Business Development Manager at Spherion Charleston
Reasons for the shortage: All of our panelists agreed that this shortage is the result of multiple factors. Reasons for the shortage that they cited included hospitality workers leaving the industry to pursue jobs in other fields, increased pandemic unemployment benefits and the pressure that comes from the sector trying to staff up all at once.
Increased wages: Hotels and restaurants in Charleston and beyond are raising wages to compete for talent. Panelist Daniel Guttentag said he thinks wage inflation will be a long-term change for the sector. Dan Blumenstock said that the rise in pay will have to be accompanied by price increases for customers. That’s also true in the restaurant space.
Ways to recruit: Responding quickly to applicants is key, Stacey Fraunfelter said. Tina Heath-Schuttenberg said that, at her restaurants, they really focus on having a unique company culture and rely in part of current employees to help them find their next teammates.
Long-term changes: Early on in the pandemic, hotels stopped offering mid-visit housekeeping services as a health precaution. Once guests entered a room, staff members generally would not go into that room until the guest checked out. Now, Blumenstock said, that’s still the case, but it’s more for staffing reasons, not health concerns, now that the pandemic has improved.
Retaining employees: Many hospitality employers are focused on recruiting, but our panel agreed they are just as, if not more, focused on retaining the workers they do have, particularly the people who stuck with them during the pandemic. Heath-Schuttenberg spoke about having to make a decision about whether to open for more service — which could strain already tired workers — or not. They opted not to, she said. Those are just a few of the topics we covered today. Keep your eye out for the full recording of the event, and then let me know what you think.