Is legal weed making it difficult for restaurants to retain employees?

Colorado has a food crisis. It’s not a food or crop shortage, but an employment scarcity. Local restaurants are having a difficult time hiring and retaining restaurant staff, and the reason is clear: pot shops pay double the hourly wage to care for marijuana plants.

While the government doesn’t have hard data and facts to back up Colorado’s claims, many in the Centennial State strongly believe that the reason Denver’s restaurant owners and chefs are having a difficult time hiring is that legal weed is a culprit in their lack of rising restaurant talent.

Marijuana growers pay entry-level employees between $12 to $15 an hour to cut, trim and care for their plants. That compares to a mere average $12.83 an hour line and prep cooks receive, which is still above Colorado’s minimum wage. Kitchen work does have physical demands and often requires constant juggling acts and multi-tasking in windowless, 90-degree rooms.

Instead, pot growers allow their employees to sit indoors in air-conditioned spaces while listening to music. Additionally, employees that are speedy and trim the pot plants in a timely fashion can earn upwards of $20 per hour.

As the need for legal weed grows in Colorado, restaurateurs are feeling the biting heat in their kitchens – delaying openings because they can’t find enough people to man the kitchens.

The National Restaurant Association confirms that prep cooks, line cooks and dishwashers are among the most challenging restaurant positions to fill. At the same time, Colorado is one of the top growing states for restaurant and food service positions over the next 10 years.

Servers that work at higher-end restaurants can make well above minimum wage, but because line and prep cooks don’t usually share in these profits, it’s leaving them longing for higher salaries and cashier jobs.

In 2010 alone, Colorado restaurants reported more than $8 billion sales with that number climbing to  $12 billion in 2017. This gave Colorado’s restaurants one of the highest year-over-year increases in the entire U.S.

While Colorado is seeing a massive housing boom and thousands of people are rushing to the state, it doesn’t appear they are going to work in the kitchens. Denver’s turnover rates are above the national average, which hovers at 28.4% and Denver is at 33.8% for kitchen staff. Whether this is just because of inexperienced or new personnel not working out or more people are embarking on pot growing careers, is speculation.

One way that Colorado restaurants can attract and retain top kitchen talent is to pay more than minimum wage. Additionally, offering on-the-job training is a great way to support employees having a long-term restaurant career.

If your restaurant is looking to hire top kitchen talent, consider using Ninja Gig’s online job application. Online employment applications streamline efficiencies and allow interested personnel to apply via your website or social media pages. Additionally, once they submit the information you can easily retain resumes and stay in compliance with federal and state laws.  Ready to give it a try?  Sign up for our 30-day free trial today!

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