Florida’s hospitality industry struggles to keep up with demand

Pevita Lena
A general manager from Wawa Inc. speaks with a potential employee at the Hospitality Hiring Event at the Venetian Center on Tuesday. [Cindy Peterson/Correspondent]

LEESBURG — The leisure and hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants and entertainment businesses — took a significant hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s economic shutdown.

And the sector is struggling to bounce back, a fact that was obvious Tuesday at a hiring event in partnership with the Leesburg Chamber of Commerce and CareerSource Central Florida on Tuesday.

Despite an increasingly high demand for employees and a rising interest for hospitality services, employers are struggling to find workers.

And while the hospitality hiring festival gave businesses a chance to speak with potential employees and fill positions, one thing was lacking: a long line of eager employees.

Florida’s hospitality industry:Employers need workers. Workers need jobs. What’s the problem?

Local businesses face hurdles

Freddy Clark, human resources assistant at Mission Inn, said that demand for hospitality service has doubled, but the resort is working with reduced staffing numbers.

“Because of the pandemic, we had a pent-up demand for entertainment and people wanting to get out,” Clark said. “That has increased demand, and at the same time, supply has dried up, as far as work force goes. A lot of people who were in the service industry moved away from it.”

Getting back to normal:Rebuilding our community

An employer speaks with a potential employee at the Hospitality Hiring Event at the Venetian Center on Tuesday. [Cindy Peterson/Correspondent]

Michael Kelly, franchise owner of Firehouse Subs, says that the business isn’t generating enough applications from potential employees through typical channels like job posting websites or in-store signs.

“It’s not just the hospitality industry, it’s everybody,” Kelly said. “I think as long as the stimulus checks continue to flow, it’s going to be hard for somebody to really come back to work and make less money than you could if you stayed at home.”

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