“We’re hiring” signs plastered on storefront windows and grounded on the lawns of restaurants and hotels are a familiar sight in Dothan as the local hospitality industry faces a near-critical shortage of employees.
For some restaurants, the shortage is so severe they don’t have enough employees to spare two hours to recruit at Visit Dothan’s Hotel and Restaurant Hiring Event, put on to address those needs.
As the nearly 40 restaurants and hotels that will be represented at the event from 2-4 p.m. Thursday at the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center’s Sterling Events Hall, there will be more than 260 open positions advertised, according to Visit Dothan Executive Director Aaron McCreight.
“It’s tough. We’re blessed with over 300 restaurants, over 30 hotels here, to cater to tourism and folks coming into town to visit…,” McCreight said. “But with unemployment at record lows and the economy what it is presents another issue that we just don’t have enough people working in our restaurants and hotels.”
Reaching a near-crisis scenario, McCreight said the Visit Dothan bureau is seeking to change the mindset people have about working in the hospitality industry
“There are few, if any industries, that can boast what hospitality can with needing little to no specific education to start at the bottom and work yourself to the very top in a very short amount of time,” McCreight said, recalling the stories of dishwashers turned general managers in only a few years.
The Hospitality Career Fair is part of Visit Dothan’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about Dothan’s burgeoning hospitality industry, including available opportunities as employers try to fill positions ahead of Spring Break and tournament season, which brings a lot of travelers through Dothan headed to the beaches or to stay in town overnight.
McCreight said, on average, hotels in Dothan maintain 60% or higher occupancy, which signals that rooms are maintaining a positive fill rate.
At the first hotel and restaurant hiring event held in October, over 150 job-seekers applied at the 24 employers present.
Of those, 44% of applicants were either hired on the spot or within a few days.
While the event employed many seeking work, McCreight said restaurants and hotels need just as many people now as they did then and he hopes Thursday’s event will see double the participation.