He credits the hotels’ strong staffing to its culture, which he said has worked on for nearly four years. “We believe a happy team equals happy guests,” Verkist said. “You cannot have one without the other.”
“There is no ‘fear-driven’ leadership in our organization,” he added. “We strive to create a workplace that our team enjoys coming to each day and feels supported.”
Verkist let some staff go early on in the pandemic but stayed in contact with them. Some college students quit their jobs because they no longer needed to stay in Bellingham after their classes went online, but he said the vacancies got filled quickly.
He now hires around 35 workers across both hotels, and doesn’t contract staff from outside the company.
Verkist prides himself on the perks he offers to his staff, too. He said that he raised starting wages to $15 an hour last May, and offers bonuses of between $250 and $500 to up to four staff members a month.
He also gives staff $15 in bar credits for each shift they work to get a free meal at the hotel’s restaurant either during or after their shift. Outside of working hours, staff get a discount at the restaurant, too.
Verkist added that he focuses on promoting from within, and has never hired a manager from outside.
The labor shortage stems from issues ‘that have been laying low for years’
A third of former hospitality workers said in a Joblist poll that they wouldn’t return to the industry.
“This is a mass exodus like I’ve never seen before in my lifetime,” Peter Ricci, head of Florida Atlantic University’s hospitality and tourism management program, told Insider.
This comes as travel is rebounding massively amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “People are traveling like crazy again,” Ricci said.
Ricci said that some business owners had a short-term view and blamed the tight labor market on supplemental unemployment benefits, but that it really stemmed from issues “that have been laying low for years,” like low pay, few healthcare benefits, and a lack of flexible hours.
“If we get closer to starting wages in other industries, we’ll level the playing field,” he said. In the meantime, hotels and restaurants may have to raise their rates and menu prices or reduce their operating hours, he said.
“Eventually incentives and benefits will draw workers back,” Joblist CEO Kevin Harrington said – and the “silver lining” is that the labor shortage could create a better environment for workers, he added.
Kevin Willis has worked at three different Maldives resorts. Currently, he’s a learning and development manager at Patina Maldives, a new luxury resort that’s replete with all the usual trappings – overwater villas, a marina with 20 berths for yachts up to 80 feet long, spa center, you name it. And yet, this is the first time in five years of work that he, a staffer, has ever had a room with a sea view.
While the Maldives is paradise for guests, it isn’t necessarily a dream for resort staff. Many employees face hard realities – among them isolation, cultural clashes, and feeling like second-class citizens – as they work on an island in the middle of the ocean for months on end.
Singapore’s luxury hotel owner Pontiac Land Group wants to change that. It’s launching three new resorts in a string of four islands called the Fari Islands in the Maldives’ north Male atoll. All four islands are a quick water-taxi ride away from each other. Three of those islands boast Pontiac resorts – a Ritz-Carlton, a Capella, and a Patina. The fourth island, called Fari Campus, is dedicated to housing and creating a sense of community for staff members of those three resorts.
Pontiac is expected to have around 1,200-plus staff members when its Fari Islands is fully operational. The Patina hotel opened in May, followed by the Ritz-Carlton in June. Capella is slated to open in the next 18 to 24 months.
Currently about 750 staff from the Ritz-Carlton and Patina live in the Fari Campus, Willis among them.
“It provides a sense of community and life away from work,” Willis told Insider of life on campus, adding that it gives staff a positive opportunity to meet new people who work at different resorts.
Hidden from sight along with the laundry facilities
Many Maldives resorts are designed to optimize the amount of beachfront space available for guests’ villas. That means staffers are made as invisible to guests as possible and packed into the middle of the island along with things like generators, waste storage, water treatment installations, and laundry.
So even if a developer wants to allocate more land to staff facilities, space is limited – and it often comes at the cost of staffers’ wellbeing.
“A lot of times what happens is staff really don’t have [social] engagement,” said Gaurang Khemka, founder and design director of URBNarc, the Singapore-based firm that designed the Fari Campus. “They are on an island in the middle of nowhere, living in the center, which is the least prime land, and screened off as if they are something to hide.”
Nicholas Clayton is the CEO of Capella Hotel Group. He told Insider that at Maldives projects he has previously worked on, worker facilities were always hidden away from sight.
“It sends a really wrong message that you’re a second-class citizen in a way,” Clayton said.
“Because of space limitations, there has to be a compromise between staff facilities and the equipment planned for the center. So, as much as other [developers] try, colleagues’ facilities generally are somewhat landlocked and constricted, versus a blank canvas that we have to create a wholesome village,” he added.
The blank canvas at the Fari Campus, meanwhile, spans 12 hectares, an area that can fit 16 football fields.
Creating private spaces for workers
The Kwee family, who owns Pontiac, bought Capella Hotel Group in 2017.
It’s a third-generation Kwee, Evan Kwee, vice chairman of Capella Hotel Group and head of design and hospitality at Pontiac, who had the vision to build a staff island with a community of its own.
At Fari Campus, staff accommodation is spread out on the island in five clusters. Each cluster comprises four three-story buildings and has a courtyard.
Khemka, the design director, said it’s all about creating private spaces for people.
“We may want to be in a courtyard to read a book, or just hang out with two staff and not 1,200,” Khemka said. “Or, find a spot to make a phone call to loved ones because all the time we are always surrounded by other staff. Staff stay dorm-style, four to a room, or two to a room [for the more senior staff].”
Facilities include a jogging track along the beach, the largest soccer field in soccer-crazy Maldives, basketball and volleyball courts, a communal plaza, library, clinic, beauty salon, and retail store. And of course, two other key facilities: a mosque and a staff canteen that “isn’t your regular staff mess,” said Khemka. It seats 450 people but was designed to create intimate sections, just as in a restaurant.
“Staff can feel psychologically comfortable and create their own little communities. It’s just like housing planning, the idea being to create sub-communities by having clusters of courtyards and smaller spaces,” said Khemka.
Mausool Abdulla is an essentialist (concierge or butler) at Patina. Patina is the seventh Maldives resort he’s worked at. He told Insider he’s overjoyed by the “space away from work” and the exclusivity of Fari Campus.
Best of all, staff have their own beach. How often can you see an off-duty staff sun-tanning on the beach in the Maldives when guests have been promised a private beach?
Trapped in more ways than one
In the Maldives, staff are often trapped not just by constrained living conditions but by geography, cultural differences, and religious taboos.
Fifty percent of staff, by law, must be locals – but not all locals work in resorts that are near the capital, Male, or their atoll’s capital island, where staff ferries can take them home every day. Many do what their foreign colleagues do: stay at the resort, work during off-days to accumulate more leave on top of their 30-day annual leave, then go home once a year.
“The staff are very trapped. They have nowhere to go. A 10-minute speedboat ride can cost $100, one way,” said a former hotel general manager of a resort in north Male atoll, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Staff must stay inside their compound. They hang out at the staff jetty. There is limited space to hang out elsewhere.”
He said the walls are so thin that people can hear private phone conversations from two rooms away.
“The pressure and stress of having no escape, no privacy, can turn little conflicts between staff into big dramas. As a GM, a major part of my job in the resort was managing people’s lives 24-7,” he said.
The isolation that comes with the job has also led to drug issues at some resorts. On some local islands, he said, there’s a black market for alcohol and drugs. The going price for a bottle of beer or a small piece of heroin is said to be $7.
“If you have a gram of heroin or a bottle of beer on you, which is easier to pocket? So any staff could be sitting here with a month’s supply of drugs,” said the GM, noting that he experienced two or three cases in the three years he worked for the hotel.
There’s also the matter of cultural clashes. The GM said he oversaw a team of 15 foreign nationalities, a cultural diversity that puts to test even the most tolerant and accepting of staff working in a constrained environment.
A game-changing vision
Pontiac’s Fari Campus stands to be a test of whether a dedicated staff island, effective design and facilities, and the right “programming” can create a harmonious and thriving community for staff. Proposed ideas on staff programs include organizing a bazaar or hosting friendly soccer matches between, say, Ritz-Carlton staff and Patina staff.
While it’s a step in the right direction, it’s not perfect.
“One improvement [would be] for us to have a training facility on Patina island, as this would save teammates a lot of time in commuting to attend training,” Willis, the development manager, said.
It’s also not the only hospitality chain paying ever more attention to the welfare of its workers.
“Maldives tourism has evolved over 30 years and living conditions for staff have improved with the entry of more international chains and the tourism ministry’s regulations on staff welfare,” said Ibrahim Nizam, CEO of The Grand Associates, a firm that helps investors invest in the Maldives. “A few resorts even have a pool for staff.”
Capella’s Clayton declined to reveal the cost of developing Fari Campus but said “it’s consistent with the investment to build and run a luxury resort in the Maldives.” In other words, it wasn’t cheap.
“The strategy behind the campus is about creating a healthy, productive environment for colleagues,” Clayton said.
“But from a cold business standpoint, we are looking for a competitive advantage,” Clayton said. We want our three hotels there to provide superior service over the competition.”
Most of us might be laser-focused on leisure vacations right now, but the revival of business travel is crucial for hospitality and travel companies. Before COVID-19, business travelers made up 12% to 15% of trips on larger airlines but generated about 45% of airlines’ revenue.
And while leisure demand has passed complete recovery, business travel is still lagging behind by 60%, Scott Kirby, United Airlines CEO’s, told John Dickerson on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Similarly Southwest Airlines’ “business travel component” was down 69% in June, Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines chairman and CEO, told Bloomberg. Kelly predicts this segment will continue to be down 50% by September, and will then improve afterwards.
In 2022 and 2023, Southwest plans to bring back more flights catered to business customers.
The consensus is that business travel will accelerate in September after Labor Day, Patrick Scholes, an analyst at Truist Securities, told Insider. And 63% of companies plan to bring back business travel within the next one to three months, according to a Global Business Travel Association survey of over 600 companies.
“I don’t think anything will be normal on the other side of this, but we expect that business demand is really going to pick up in September as most of these schools are back in,” Kirby said.
Those who are “bullish” are holding out for a September business travel increase that mimics the recent skyrocket of leisure travel, Scholes said. But he believes there will be a “modest acceleration” after the federal holiday, and that the segment will still be down compared to 2019.
“Some of the more bullish folks in the greater industry think it’ll be a full recovery by the end of next year,” Scholes said. “Some of the more conservative, perhaps not until 2024.”
Both Scholes and Kirby fall somewhere in between: They believe business travel will be back by the end of 2023.
The impact on hotels
It’s not just airlines: The slow and steady increase in business travel is also impacting hotels.
From June 21 to June 24 (a Monday through Thursday when business travel typically happens) the revenue per available room for generic business travel hotels was down about 45% compared to the same time in 2019. Meanwhile, mid-week stays at economy hotels – like Super 8, which primarily caters to leisure travelers – were up almost 10%.
As a result, “the road to a full recovery for America’s hotels is long and uneven,” Chip Rogers, president and CEO of American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) said in a press release. Like other experts, AHLA predicts business travel won’t fully recover until 2023 or 2024, citing that many conferences, conventions, and in-person events have already been pushed back until 2022.
Business travel recovery depends on factors like persistent COVID-19 concerns, the rise in Zoom, and the newfound work from home comfort that has replaced the time and stress of commuting. However, Scholes doesn’t believe these factors will permanently slice business travel in half, which is what Bill Gates predicted in 2020.
“In my view, that is way off,” Scholes said, predicting that about 5% of business travel customers will be lost in the end.
The labor shortage is tough on the economic recovery. Consumers are spending and employers want to hire, but jobs can’t get filled fast enough right now.
There’s several signs that suggest the labor shortage will end soon, according to a Thursday note by the UBS Evidence Lab. But there’s one big reason it might not.
UBS’s Andrew Dubinsky, Pablo Villanueva, and Samuel Coffin wrote in a Thursday note that the labor shortage might be ending soon, given the increase in job openings and decline in retirement rates, among other things.
According to UBS, here are the three signs that the labor shortage could be ending:
Job openings keep rising
The indicator that makes “the best case for continued strong job gains is job openings which have continued to increase through the end of May,” the economists wrote.
They also note a drop in quit rates, which could suggest stable hiring rates accompanied by the job gains in May and June. The latter month added 850,000 payrolls, in the clearest sign that the shortage may be easing.
Insider previously reported that a factor behind the job openings could be workers holding out for higher wages, and given that a number of companies are beginning to increase wages to get people back to work, more jobs will likely be filled as a result.
Retirements may have peaked
UBS found that retirements may have peaked for those aged 70 and older, which could help explain why participation rates are low.
Other factors, like fear of contracting the virus and disruptions to childcare, are temporarily limiting the return to the workforce, the economists wrote, but they are expected to improve in the coming months.
Service jobs added to the high level of job openings
The leisure and hospitality sector made up 40% of the total job gains in June, adding 343,000 payrolls, showing a promising sign for job growth in the service industry.
Pay in the sector also jumped 3.6% over the past three months, and the correlation between increased jobs and increased wages is suggesting that higher wages work. For the month of June, wages shot up 7.1% from a year ago, the biggest gain for any sector.
But these promising signs for the end to the labor shortage could be jeopardized by one thing: bottlenecks.
Bottlenecks occur when an industry has to slow its growth because it cannot keep up with demand, and the economists wrote that if bottlenecks don’t fade, the labor shortage will likely persist. Job fillings remain slow from the bottleneck caused by the pandemic recession, but the drop in quit rates, along with wage gains, suggest bottlenecks might be fading, UBS said.
“If bottlenecks fade, openings and listings gains imply job growth trends should remain strong,” it said.
A convention center in Riverside, California, announced it would not host GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz after it received backlash in the latest blow to the lawmakers’ “America First” tour.
“I recognize this was a divisive issue in our community, and I am glad it has been resolved,” Dawson said in the statement. “I commend Raincross Hospitality Corp. for this decision.”
“Riverside is a diverse and inclusive community, so it is heartening to hear that this event will not move forward,” said Riverside Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plascencia. “I am disappointed we even got to this point, because these speakers are the antithesis of everything Riverside stands for.”
The tour by two of the most polarizing members of Congress aims to attack Democrats and also Republicans who they believe aren’t loyal to former President Donald Trump. Gaetz has also been embroiled in controversy after reports surfaced in late March that the third-term congressman was under investigation for sex trafficking. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing.
“We just want to stay clear of that,” the hotel manager told the outlet.
Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, and Greene, a Republican from Georgia, plan to go ahead with the event, hosting it at the Anaheim Event Center in Orange County, closer to the initial venue, according to a report from CBS Los Angeles.
Representatives for Gaetz, Greene, the Riverside Convention Center, and the Anaheim Event Center did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment Saturday
“Democrats are the party of hate,” Greene said in a tweet Saturday morning. “They organized to attack, threaten, & harass every venue we booked in CA to hold an America First rally, which celebrates our great country & freedoms. They think their vicious hate will stop me, but I never give up. See you at the rally tonight!”
“The Woketopians are this scared of a dose of #AmericaFirst in California,” Gaetz said in a tweet on Saturday morning. “Rally still happening today!”
This summer has been busier than ever, and while it’s wonderful to finally be able to reopen our doors to full capacity and welcome our guests back, there’s a major caveat – it’s been virtually impossible to find enough staff.
Between my two restaurants, I have 87 people on staff. In an ideal situation, that number would be 100. But some of my staff weren’t interested in returning once we reopened – they told me they’d rather stay home on unemployment. I’ve had no choice but to seek out additional help.
I recently spent $2,000 posting job listings on Indeed and only received 10 resumes.
Prior to the pandemic, I never had to post jobs. People would just come in looking for work.
The people of Southampton have long supported me, so I always look to hire from within the community. I’ve also been known to approach customers I think would be a good fit to see if they’re interested.
These days, the tables have been turned and the employees feel like the real bosses, calling the shots in terms of how much they want to get paid and telling me when they want to work. My hands are tied in many instances; I have to do it if I want to keep operating.
In an effort to keep my staff in place and attract more talent, I increased the hourly pay, but I still can’t find enough people.
Last year, our dishwashers made $15 to $16 an hour; now it’s $19 to $22. Busboys, servers, and bartenders make $10 an hour plus tips and hostesses make between $18 to $30 based on their experience. Last week alone, some bussers took home $2,000 while some servers took home $5,000, because we’re busier than ever.
When it comes to hiring hostesses, I have three main criteria.
They must be fluent in English because they are representing our front of house and interfacing with everyone who walks through our doors; they must be familiar with POS (point of sale) systems to handle takeout orders and reservations; and they must be able to smile despite whatever may be going on. That last one is sometimes the hardest part.
Being in a front-of-house role is a tough job, especially these days now.
People are impatient and often it’s the hostess that will get the brunt of it.
Customers will yell and scream and complain, but we have to just grin and bear it. Last week I had a hostess burst out in tears and run into the kitchen. It’s not easy.
I insist on personally interviewing every hire down to the dishwasher.
I ask hypothetical questions that will allow me to get a snapshot of the type of person they are, like if they were free and a manager texted them to come in on their day off, what would they do? Their responses factor into whether I’d hire them, since I want a staff of team players who see this job as more than just a paycheck. At the end of the day, we spend more time at work than at home sometimes, so we have to work as a team.
I live above the restaurant and with the exception of the hour I take to exercise on the beach in the morning, I’m pretty much always at work.
Despite all the craziness, my favorite time in the Hamptons is still between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
I’ve been in the restaurant industry since 2002 when I first walked through the doors of Southampton’s 75 Main at the age of 21 and was hired on the spot as a dishwasher.
I myself rose up the ranks from dishwasher to busboy, then server and bartender to finally, manager. In 2010, I bought 75 Main from the owner who had originally hired me.
Sometimes I still can’t believe it, considering in 1994 I was living in my home city of Erzincan, Turkey, working as a shepherd and had never set foot on American soil.
Although I’m the owner now, I’m still running around, doing whatever needs to get done, including bussing tables. I’m happy if I get four hours of sleep a night.
A long time ago I vowed whatever I did, I would be the best at it, and you don’t become the best by sitting around watching everyone else work.
This month, we’re shooting a TV pilot inside 75 Main so people can see what it’s really like to work inside a restaurant like ours. It was one of our customer’s ideas. This place has all the elements of a movie: comedy, action, entertainment, and plenty of drama.
The Las Vegas Strip’s newest hotel officially opened on June 24: the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas.
The hotel was developed by Malaysia-based Genting Group and its official opening could not have come at a more fortuitous time as people begin traveling again.
“A brand-new Las Vegas opening like Resorts World can drive increased visitation,” Barry Jonas, managing director of Truist Securities, told Katie Young and Contessa Brewer for CNBC. “As many customers looking to trial the new property also like to visit multiple properties during their stay.”
Any Las Vegas aficionado will know that a crowd-pleasing Las Vegas Strip hotel must have plenty of food, gambling, pool, and drinking options.
Luckily, Resorts World offers all four, often with a tech-forward twist.
Let’s take a look inside.
Behind the flashy Resorts World sign lies a well-known hospitality company: Hilton.
In February 2020, the hospitality giant partnered with Resorts World Las Vegas to introduce three Hilton brands to the resort.
The three Hilton brands – Hilton Hotel and Resorts, LXR, and Conrad – make an appearance throughout the 3,500-room hotel.
The hotel has 236 rooms under Hilton’s luxury segment, LXR.
Guests staying in these rooms will have their own entrance and lobby, and upgraded rooms, suites, and villas ranging from 550 square feet to a whopping 7,000 square feet.
Then there’s the Conrad segment, which includes 1,496 rooms and suites spanning from 550 square feet to 2,800 square feet.
Finally, the majority of the rooms – 1,774, to be exact – are made up of “Las Vegas Hilton at Resorts World” rooms ranging from 400 square feet to 3,300 square feet.
Besides Hilton, Resorts World has a long list of partnerships with recognizable names, such as the Kardashian-Jenner family in the form of a pop-up Kardashian Kloset, the family’s online clothing and accessory resale site.
Not interested in raiding the celebrity powerhouse family’s closet?
Resorts World also has a two-floor, 70,000-square-foot shopping venue for guests in need of retail therapy.
Besides the Kardashian family and Hilton partnerships, the hotel is also working with food ordering and delivery platform Grubhub.
Guests can use the Grubhub app or scan the Grubhub QR codes located throughout the resort, to order food or retail items.
From there, the charge can be placed on the guests’ room or credit card.
But that’s not the only tech-forward feature of the modern hotel.
It’s 2021, so of course, Resorts World has cryptocurrency capabilities.
Resorts World has partnered with Gemini – a cryptocurrency platform founded by Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss – to turn the property into “one of the most crypto-friendly resorts on the Las Vegas Strip,” according to a press release.
Like more modern hotels, Resorts World also uses mobile check-ins, an artificial intelligence concierge, and digital keys.
The resort even has a tunnel that connects it to the Las Vegas Convention Center via Tesla cars.
Now, let’s take a look at Resorts World’s theater, which has space for 5,000 live entertainment fans or convention attendees.
The theater houses one of the biggest stages on the Vegas Strip, according to the resort.
In total, the stage spans 64 feet deep and 196 feet wide, totaling 13,550 square feet.
So far, headliners at the massive theater are set to include A-listers like Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, and Luke Bryan.
The property will also have 250,000 square feet worth of meeting spaces and ballrooms for folks headed to Sin City strictly for work purposes.
Moving right along to everyone’s favorite part: the food.
Las Vegas has always been known for its bustling food and buffet scene, among other Vegas attributes.
Resorts World is no different, and the property will have over 40 food and drink options.
Let’s start off with Famous Foods Street Eats, a 24,000-square-foot food hall with 16 stalls. Several of these stalls include Asian-inspired options and restaurants with Michelin Plate or Bib Gourmand recognition.
There’s even a speakeasy inside the food hall.
But don’t fret if a food hall isn’t your scene.
Resorts World has a whole list of other food and drink options.
This includes Genting Palace, an “old-world glamour” Cantonese eatery …
… sushi and teppanyaki hotspot Kusa Nori …
… vegan ice cream from Craig’s, an iconic Los Angeles eatery …
… and RedTail, a game bar with food options.
Speaking of which, what would a Las Vegas resort be without bars?
Resorts World also has several drinking spots, including Starlight on 66 with views of the city, Nashville-transplanted Dawg House Saloon and Sportsbook, and the “most technologically advanced nightclub in Las Vegas,” Zouk Nightclub.
There’ll even be a champagne-forward Gatsby’s Cocktail Lounge with live music and DJs.
Like Resorts World’s theater, Zouk Nightclub and the hotel’s other club, Ayu Dayclub, will have recognizable headliners or residents like Zedd, Tiësto, Jack Harlow, and Madison Beer.
Now moving on to the casino. The 117,000-square-foot space is filled with all the classic gambling options, such as 1,400 slot machines, 30 poker tables, and 117 table games.
Resorts World’s casino even has cashless options, including “cashless wagering.”
Think “tap-(or scan)-and-go,” but on a slot machine or at a table game.
If you’ve been gambling indoors for a bit too long, go unwind at the 5.5-acres worth of pools, including everyone’s favorite, an infinity pool.
The seven pools also have what Resorts World calls the “largest pool deck in Las Vegas,” as evidenced by the rendering below.
And when it’s time for some rest and relaxation from all the Vegas chaos, head to the 27,000-square-foot spa.
If these amenities all sound pretty enticing to you, you’re not alone.
“We were waiting, optimistic that things would get better when we opened,” Scott Sibella, president of Resorts World Las Vegas, told CNBC. “But here we are at 100% [capacity] and everything’s going well in Las Vegas, and we’re excited to be part of that.”
The June jobs report added 850,000 payrolls, going beyond expectations as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic. A large chunk of the big jobs gain came from leisure and hospitality, and the reason for this likely comes down to higher wages.
Of the 850,000 payrolls added, leisure and hospitality made up 343,000 of them, or 40% of the total gain. Pay in the sector jumped 3.6% over the past three months, and the correlation between increased jobs and increased wages is suggesting that higher wages work. For the month of June, wages shot up 7.1% from a year ago, the biggest gain for any sector.
“The continued progress for the leisure and hospitality sector is excellent news. Continued payroll gains for these industries hit so hard by the pandemic is a sign that more workers can quickly return to work,” Nick Bunker, economic research director for jobs site Indeed, wrote in a statement. He added that 23% of gains added overall last month were from food services and drinking places.
Despite the fifth consecutive month of gains in the industry, leisure and hospitality is still 2.2 million jobs, or 12.9%, below pre-pandemic employment. However, Bunker told Insider that given the progress made in the industry, it looks like the pace of recovery is pretty quick.
Following the April jobs report that fell significantly below expectations, Insider reported that one of the possible reasons workers weren’t rushing back to work, despite a high number of job openings, was that they were holding out for higher wages.
Around the same time, major companies including Costco and Target have raised their minimum wages to at least $15 an hour, putting pressure on other employers to follow suit.
But, as Heidi Shierholz, a former Obama administration economist and now director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute, pointed out on Twitter, wages for workers in leisure and hospitality “plummeted” last year during the recession, so even with the strong wage growth in those sectors this year, wages are not that much higher than if the pandemic had never happened.
“Over the last three months, leisure & hospitality has added 977,000 jobs-well over half of the 1.7 million total jobs added over that period,” Shierholz wrote. She added that these numbers “are just not signaling a big labor shortage.”
In an attempt to remedy the labor shortage, GOP-led states have been ending unemployment benefits early under the argument the benefits are disincentivizing the return to work. But June’s jobs data were collected before some of the cuts went into effect, meaning benefits might not have been the problem, rather, low wages were.
Betsey Stevenson, another former economist for the Obama administration, wrote on Twitter that the solution to finding workers is simply offering a higher wage.
“So it turns out that you can find workers, you just have to pay a better wage than in the past because wages of low-wage workers are going up.”
Employment is rebounding in the Northeast – and economists say the region’s high vaccination rates are a major factor.
As more people get their shots, economies in the Northeast, which has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country, are reopening, prompting both customers to flock to restaurants and other businesses and workers to return to jobs, economists told The Wall Street Journal.
Rhode Island’s unemployment rate fell by 0.5% from April to May, per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Joint with Delaware, this was the biggest drop in the US. This was followed by four states whose unemployment rates dropped by 0.4% – two of which, Connecticut and New York, were in the Northeast.
Some of the biggest job gains were in the leisure and hospitality industries, where staff work close to customers. In all nine Northeastern states employment in these industries increased from April to May, The Journal reported, citing BLS data. Pennsylvania added nearly 11,000 new jobs in the sector, and New York added around 7,000.
Insider’s Áine Cain reported earlier in June that minimum-wage workers were quitting their jobs in droves because of concerns over the spread of the virus as well as long hours, unruly customers, and low pay.
New York’s unemployment rate is falling faster than the national average – but remains high overall, at 7.8%, compared to a 5.8% average. Connecticut’s sits at 7.7%, and New Jersey’s at 7.2%, the BLS data shows.
Some Northeast states, however, have unemployment rates well below the national average. New Hampshire has the lowest unemployment rate in the US, at 2.5%, followed by Vermont, which is joint with Nebraska at 2.6%, BLS data shows. These are all less than half the national average.
Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the country, with 73.6% of people having received their first dose by June 27, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows. Other Northeast states are among states with the highest vaccination rates, the data shows. New York has the Northeast’s lowest vaccination rate at 59.7% – but this is still well above the national average of 54%.
“The Northeastern region has benefited from a rapid rollout of vaccines,” Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at job-review site Glassdoor, told The Wall Street Journal. “The health situation is improving and economic activity is unlocked, allowing workers to return and consumers to go out and spend.”
Alfonso Flores-Lagunes, an economist at New York’s Syracuse University, told the publication that “people are feeling more comfortable going to restaurants, traveling, and right now in the Northeast, it’s a good time to travel because it’s not as cold.”
Reopening my restaurants felt as if we’d all suddenly been released from a year-long cage, and now everyone is trying to make up for lost time.
The Hamptons are filled with people who aren’t used to hearing ‘no.’ With much fewer restaurants, bars, and clubs than places like Manhattan or Miami, the demand has skyrocketed beyond belief, and people are going to greater lengths to get in and be seen. I’ve never seen anything like it.
On a typical weekend at 75 Main, we serve between 1,200 and 1,400 people a day, and still manage to have a packed bar and a line out the door.
Reservations are filled weeks in advance for 75 main, and at Blu Mar every weekend all summer is already fully booked. Walk-ins can try their luck and hope for a cancellation – some people wait for over an hour for the chance to score a table.
For the first time ever, I’m telling servers to not even suggest coffee or dessert unless the party specifically requests it. I’ve also instructed servers to drop the check off shortly after the entree comes out on weekends to speed up turnover.
These days everybody claims to know me – women come in and pretend they’re my sister or girlfriend.
Strangers come to the door and insist they’ve been coming here forever. Sometimes I’m standing right there, and they don’t even know it’s me because they have no idea what I look like.
I have a code with the staff. If I give them a thumbs up, they can let them in but if I raise two fingers, it’s a no. Let’s just say there’s more raised fingers than thumbs up this season.
One of the more creative ruses to get into Buddha Lounge at Blu Mar happened recently when a guy approached the doorman, showing him a fake text conversation supposedly between me and him along the lines of “Skip the line and tell the doorman I said to let you know in to VIP, no cover charge.”
It worked, but later that night the doorman pointed out my so-called friend and I’d never seen him in my life. I walked up, introduced myself, and said while I was impressed with his resourcefulness and he was free to enjoy his night, he should never come back again.
While making up stories and offering tips to gain entry is nothing new in hospitality, people are taking it to a bold new level this season.
People have gone so far as to ask staff for their Venmo handle to send them money, or ask what their favorite store is and then drop off a gift card to curry favor.
I had a gentleman come into 75 Main one weekend and request a table for four for dinner. The dining room was completely packed, so I told him he could wait at the bar for a table to open in an hour or so.
He asked if he bought the most expensive bottle of wine we had, which was $1,500, could I find a way to seat him right away? I wasn’t sure he was serious, but he purchased the wine and no sooner did we uncork the bottle than a table opened up. I cut the line and gave him the table. Everyone was happy.
Flashing cash is just the tip of the iceberg – we have one diner who regularly gives our hostesses vintage jewelry she no longer wears.
Other guests have offered private helicopter rides, jaunts on million-dollar yachts, and even weeklong stays in lavish guest homes.
When it comes to our regulars, I’ll do anything I can to accommodate them. When they get served and I get paid, it’s a win-win. I want to ensure my loyal customers are happy because at the end of the day, we’re planning on sticking around for the long haul.