Ailing restaurant industry will starve Colorado’s economy | Joey Bunch | Colorado Politics

It happened to this. A donut shop in Colorado Springs — which has withstood wildfires, hailstorms and economic recessions — can’t handle the existential crisis of people serving people.

Until there’s labor, you won’t get espresso and iced traditionals at the Dunkin’ store (without Donuts) at 806 W. Colorado Ave. Welcome to the world we live in.

We just can’t get people to work“, the owner told the Colorado Springs Gazette, explaining that the 55-year-old store that normally employs 15 people had grown to three. At this point, the entrepreneurs give up.

The pandemic, politics and economic downturn are going to affect all of us who don’t hunt and slaughter our own food.

If you think we’re digging, you’re wrong.

“In a nutshell, our restaurants cannot even begin to recover from the economic downturn of the pandemic as they are burdened with the weight of pandemic-related debt, significant increases in operating costs and continued shortages. labor force, which is only getting worse,” Denise Mickelsen, spokesperson for the Colorado Restaurant Associationsaid.

I asked him if the outlook was sunny, cloudy, or awful in the Old Testament.

“The forecast for the restaurant industry is unfortunately not as sunny as it looked last spring,” she said, calling the last 18 months the worst in living memory for the food trade. retail.

More than a quarter of restaurants in Colorado are planning to close, so let’s see what that does to your wait for a breakfast table at any Snooze’s location in Denver. Prepare a lunch.

The same association survey from July 8 to August 9 found that every restaurant owner said costs were higher these days, and 95% said they had to pass the burden on to customers accordingly.

The past year has brought the largest increase in food prices since 2011. Wholesale prices climbed 9.6% in June this year compared to June last year.

The price of a tomato is not the worst.

You could, however, call it good fortune for the workers, whose wages have been stagnating for years on top of a steady decline in benefits. If the free market is about competition, labor has the upper hand to change.

More than 9 in 10 restaurants are struggling to hire enough staff and 67% are worried about retaining their current staff.

Since March 2020, restaurants in Colorado have increased wages by an average of 19%, including nearly a third who had raised wages by up to 30%, according to their association.

The survey found that nearly a quarter of restaurants have increased their benefits, including paid vacations, more insurance, retirement plans, educational assistance and hiring bonuses.

It’s not just a Denver problem or just a restaurant problem. It’s an American problem. Throughout the country there are were nearly 11 million job offers in July, a record. Shares fell with the news.

On Monday, I received an email from the Apartment Association of Metro Denver regarding their new career center and training programs to find and train people to work in the rental housing industry.

The association also offers two six-week training programs – one for maintenance and one for management and leasing – paying $17 an hour for on-the-job training and, if all goes well, a job at the end.

National retail chains are also realizing the value of low-wage employees. Target, Walmart, CVS Pharmacy and Chipotle are raise wages up to $15, after years of resistance to a higher minimum wage . This is in addition to hiring bonuses and better benefits.

The crisis facing restaurants will hit us all in the stomach or the wallet.

Restaurants in Colorado have taken on an average debt of about $180,000 since the pandemic began, according to the trade association, and those bills will come due. You and I will help pay the bill.

Economists can’t agree however.

In March, the US bailout placed $1,400 stimulus checks in recipients’ bank accounts, expanded the child tax credit and increased unemployment benefits by $300 a week until the start of this month.

While $300 is a cushion, the majority of economists say the effect on overall labor numbers is minimal, unless a full-time job pays less than $300 a week after taxes.

Some jobs are too low-paying or too remote for workers to afford to take, and higher-paying positions often require skills or certifications they don’t have. Childcare is a pandemic challenge, with providers closing or limiting enrollment, while schools are operating again, again on remote learning.

Colorado lawmakers have been sympathetic. In a special session last December, the General Assembly created a temporary tax break allowing restaurants to keep monthly receipts for the 2.9% sales tax rather than remit it to the state.

It was above a $37 million in “direct relief” bill for restaurants, bars and other small businesses affected by capacity limits under the governor’s public health orders.

All this business is salad and potatoes. It’s not the main course. Entry is an economy working again, with enough cash in the worker’s pocket to enjoy frequent restaurant meals.

We’ll have to wait longer on that dinner bell.

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Cecil N. Messick