NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Few industries have been immune to the current labor shortage, and Nashville’s hospitality industry has especially felt the pinch. 

“If you ask nine-and-a-half out of 10 restaurant, tourist, hoteliers what their biggest challenge is — it’s labor,” Germantown Café General Manager Sean Lyons said.  

Lyons has been in the restaurant industry for 13 years. Since the pandemic, he says rising costs of living, new types of jobs and numerous new restaurants have added stiff competition. 

“One, just getting people into the doors and then because it’s so competitive. If you don’t talk to them that day, they may have already found another job so the next day they may not be able to show up to your interview,” Lyons said. 

Restaurants see some of their busiest months of the year between October and December. Lyons says without enough staff, the restaurant industry could struggle as a whole.  

“Customers, in general, have certain expectations. Luckily COVID has adjusted some of those and people are just thankful to be back in restaurants still, however, it impacts the quality of the food, it impacts the quality of the beverages, it impacts the time standards,” Lyons explained. 

Thankfully, the Greater Nashville Hospitality Association says they have seen improvements. 

“Our member partners are feeling a little bit of an ease from this summer. They’re getting more applicants, more qualified applicants, and are very hopeful that trend will continue,” President & CEO Leesa LeClaire said. “I heard a study that the state of Tennessee shared that wages are up 20% year-over-year in our industry. So, at one point the average wage was around $15 per hour and now it’s up to somewhere around $18.45.” 

The Greater Nashville Hospitality Association and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp are working with local high schools to encourage students to consider a career in the hospitality industry.  

Germantown Café has gotten creative in order to build their team, offering higher wages, in-depth training, and a culture workers like showing up to. As the industry adjusts, they ask that customers have patience with those who do show up.  

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“That’s one thing we would always ask for is patience and empathy and that we’re just trying to do our best with what’s given to us. And over time we hope everything recovers and people come back to hospitality because they love making people feel great… we’re moving there slowly but surely,” Lyons said.