500 food service jobs open in downtown Nashville due to worker s - WSMV News 4

500 food service jobs open in downtown Nashville due to worker shortage

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(WSMV file photo) (WSMV file photo)

Restaurants in downtown Nashville are struggling to find qualified people to work as the city’s growth has drained the pool of workers.

About 500 kitchen workers and wait staff are needed in the downtown area, according to the president of the Music City Center. That’s a large number of jobs sitting open with no one to fill them, and it could affect customers’ service in restaurants.

“There are not enough servers, there are not enough bartenders, there are not enough busboys, there are not enough dishwashers,” said Randy Rayburn, the owner and chef of Midtown Cafe.

Culinary schools can’t keep up.

“(It’s) not even close. I don’t know of any culinary school in the United States that could fill the Nashville need,” said chef Paul Brennen, the director of the Nashville State Community College Culinary Arts program.

Brennen said about 1,000 jobs are open across the city in food service - half of them in the downtown area. Restaurant owners are turning to the classrooms for help.

“Part of it is we can’t just keep recycling the folks that are already in that industry. We’ve got to grow the talent pool,” said Charles Starks, the president and CEO of the Music City Center.

Part of that challenge includes better pay. Industry leaders said it’s tough for hourly workers to move to Nashville where cost of living is so high.

“Everybody’s had labor increases across the board, so we’re certainly able to pay more. We’re very fortunate that we have a great benefit package and some of the things that we can do to recruit talent,” Starks said.

Other incentives offered include parking spots downtown, MTA passes or carpools, anything restaurants can do to bring people in.

“Having so many jobs available is a real blessing for a lot of people. Some people may not have the skills, but a lot of the skills can be learned and people can be trained and go from minimum wage to career opportunities fairly quickly actually,” Rayburn said.

Culinary school leaders say they are working to pair up with more restaurants for graduates to fill the need.

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