In the last issue of this magazine, I wrote that the sun was beginning to shine a bit brighter on the restaurant community in Colorado. While those words have held true in some regards—ever-increasing vaccination rates, a busy summer patio season, alcohol to go legislation in place for the next four years, almost 18,000 local businesses receiving Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) grants—there are also clouds gathering that threaten to send our industry back to bleaker times.
As I write this letter, restaurants across the country and the Centennial State are weighing the risks and rewards of instituting mask and/or vaccination requirements for their establishments. Of course, that’s if local public health officials and government leaders don’t make that decision for them, as Mayor Bill de Blasio did in New York City. The COVID-19 Delta variant is wreaking havoc on America’s unvaccinated population, and, as you all well know, the labor shortage in restaurants is as dire as ever; more than 91 percent of respondents to our July restaurant impact survey reported struggling with hiring and staff retention. More than 68 percent also told us that they’ve taken on new, pandemic-related debt that will take years to pay off. All of that is on top of the disappointment thousands of Colorado restaurant operators felt at being denied RRF grants, and the rising cost of food, labor, and supplies that make daily operations ever more challenging.
And yet, just think of all that you’ve overcome since March 2020. You’re still in business, and you’re still creating beautiful guest experiences each and every day. We know the ground is shifting beneath your feet and that you’re expected to do the nearly impossible on a regular basis, but we at the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) are right here with you, fighting for you in every way possible.
We are putting significant resources behind the CRA restaurant job board—corestaurantjobs.com—and the Restaurant Renaissance marketing campaign that supports it to drive workers to your open positions. We’re working with local officials to roll out a hiring and retention bonus program that will make it easier to bring on more staff. We’re keeping you regularly informed with all the relevant information you need to navigate today’s choppy waters, from legal advice on how to institute mask and vaccine policies to mental health and wellness resources for you and your teams. We’re also keeping up the pressure on local media and reminding them that there is a bright side to the restaurant industry, where fun, flexible, and great-paying opportunities exist for workers at all experience levels.
Please let us know what else we can do to support you. Share your concerns, hopes, and feedback with us as we shape our initiatives, and sign up to receive our emails at corestaurant.org. We won’t stop fighting for you, just as we know that you won’t stop fighting for your teams, your businesses, your guests, and this incredible industry that we all love so dearly.