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Tampa Bay's food industry is booming, but restaurants can't find enough workers

While people are crowding restaurants and new places to dine are popping up across Tampa Bay, restaurant owners are having trouble finding quality employees.

TAMPA, Fla. -- The food culture is booming in Tampa Bay, but restaurant owners are having trouble finding quality employees.

As it turns out, more money pouring in is both good and bad for restaurant owners.

Louie Spetrini has been in the restaurant business for 40 years. He just opened Nueva Cantina in South Tampa. He says he's never seen the restaurant job market quite like this.

"I had to postpone it [the opening] for two weeks. Three job fairs, and no one turned out for any of them," Spetrini explained.

He says the restaurant job market is slim pickings.

"Therefore you're hiring less than qualified to fill spaces. It's going to affect your evening at that restaurant whether it's service, the whole environment changes, obviously without the quality of people."

Spetrini isn't the only one who feels this way. The shortage is happening on both sides of the bay.

Pete Boland owns The Galley- A St. Pete Tavern. He's had a tough time finding quality staff to meet the high customer demand.

"The food and beverage scene has exploded here, the craft beer scene, there's been a huge expansion of restaurants in both Tampa and St. Pete, and it's definitely watered down the applicant pool," Boland said.

For the patron, you could run into inconsistency, longer wait times, less quality, and ultimately higher prices.

A quick search on Craigslist reveals the massive need for restaurant employees in Tampa Bay. You'll find openings for everything from hostesses to cooks.

USF Economics Chair Dr. Brad Kamp says this trend is typical when the economy is booming.

"When times are good they have a difficult time finding help. When times are bad, they don't need as much help but they can find it," Dr. Kamp explained.

With unemployment rates low, people are finding better-paying work outside the restaurant business. This leaves owners to decide when to raise salaries, which are passed onto patrons, and when to eat the cost themselves.


10News Reporter Liz Crawford stopped by 10 restaurants in Tampa Bay to see if they were hiring. Watch the video below to see what she found.