FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spices, sauces, even sausages are made by hand at The Standard in downtown Fort Myers. The homemade recipes are what sets them apart from the competition, but keeping up with big-box retailers can be a challenge.
“It is difficult to find quality people,” said Christopher Blauvelt, owner of The Standard.
Hospitality and tourism drive the economy in Southwest Florida, but there’s a lack of workers to fill those positions. Part of that is due to a low unemployment rate and a booming economy.
“There’s thousands and thousands of restaurants in the Southwest area. There’s more that are coming every day. And so just the number of restaurants and the number of staffing and to find workers in everything… there’s a shortage in our hospitality industry as well as many other industries,” said Lois Kroft, director of Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association in Southwest Florida.
Owners worry worker shortage could get worse when the Luminary Hotel, owned by Marriott Hotels, opens in summer 2020.
“I’m afraid that that hotel is going to create a black hole… with that being a Marriott and it being a corporate and benefits that they’re going to draw in a lot of our workers,” said Steve Hollister, owner of Twisted Vine Bistro and The Barrel Room.
But programs like ProStart want to draw in more hospitality workers. They work with high school students to train and educate them about the food service industry.
“You can make anything from 40, 50, 60, to 100,000 dollars a year depending on where you’re working at,” Kroft said.
For more information about the program, visit their website.