Steve Coomes on the “serious labor shortage” faced by metro Louisville restaurants.

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Celebrate Food & Dining: The magazine’s 50th issue is on the street, and my column is inside it.


A Thanksgiving coincidence? It’s been a good week to talk about food and dining.

Monday: We welcome Staggers, Morris and the Gospel Bird with open arms and our senseless one-way streets.

Tuesday: The Gospel Bird is coming, so let’s remember what preceded it in the Bader Building and Parthenon.

As usual, there is a flip side.

In recent years, I’ve caught my share of heat for pointing out that exuberance in craft beer isn’t always rational: Will there be enough retail shelf space and loyal on-premise taps to sustain all the start-ups geared toward production and distribution?

Strategies suggested by some for future brewery survival include a conscious return to the basics. In short, get your “brewpub” on and sell fewer beer at higher margins from your own space. In the absence of mobile street food culture, this generally implies having a kitchen, which in turn suggests another potential issue.

Namely, staffing.

Throughout the year, Steve Coomes has been writing about a restaurant labor shortage in the area. There is yet another side of this coin for Southern Indiana: Assuming the continued growth of the restaurant and bar segment on the sunny side, what happens when tolling comes into effect — not just as it pertains to customers, but also workers?

Perhaps we need to consult the “effect on Indiana small business” study conducted by the Bridges Junta.

Except they never did such a study, did they?

A serious labor shortage, not restaurant openings, is Louisville’s main concern, by Steve Coomes (Insider Louisville)

… The sheer number of openings has this upside: the mark of a healthy dining scene and an acknowledgement of Louisville being a favorable place to open such businesses.

Brett Davis, partner in Falls City Hospitality Group, at the site of the future JQ Public House.
Brett Davis, partner in Falls City Hospitality Group, at the River Road site of the future JQ Public House, which will employ a large staff. | Photo by Steve Coomes
The troubling issue is what customers don’t see, namely that the skilled labor pool required to run these new places is nearly dry. Alongside many menus posted in restaurant windows is, all too commonly, a Help Wanted sign. And if that plea isn’t in the window, it’s in an ad on Craigslist or a post on Facebook …

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