Hospitality industry faces worker shortage as restrictions ease

The hospitality industry has seen a shortage of workers as the pandemic restrictions loosen. (FOX 9)

Minnesota may be easing pandemic restrictions, but a lot of businesses in the hospitality industry are facing a big problem: not enough workers.

Jenna Culley has planned events across the Twin Cities for almost a decade. She organized 30 weddings a year pre-pandemic, but only did about five amid the pandemic.

Weddings and events are picking up for Culley as the governor loosens restrictions. And while there’s not a shortage of work for her company, she’s noticed it’s been harder to find the services to put on the show.  

"I was struggling to find a renter vendor that was available for what we needed for lighting and draping and things like that. It wasn't that they didn’t have the supplies for it, but they didn’t have the crews to do it," said Culley.

Across the industry, leaders say there’s a labor shortage. The owner at Grey's, who didn’t want to go on camera, says she’s looking to hire more bartenders as restrictions are lifted and for the outdoor patio season.  

"It’s not just in the restaurant world, but all hospitality as well as hotels, resorts are out there looking for workers as they try and recover," said Ben Wogsland, the director of government relations at Hospitality Minnesota.

Hospitality Minnesota leaders say the pandemic cost the industry more than $11 billion in sales and their workforce as people were forced to leave the industry and find work elsewhere.  

There’s optimism as more businesses open, but hiring more people is critical for the industry to survive.

"There were some projections here in Minnesota, even before the pandemic that the restaurant industry needed to add about 15,000 more jobs over the next decade and the last year has just exacerbated that," said Wogsland.