published Friday, October 25th, 2013

Nashville hospitality industry struggling to find workers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The hospitality industry in Nashville is facing an unexpected problem as it grows -- finding enough qualified applicants to fill the number of open positions.

Several new restaurants have located in the city recently in addition to the opening of the Omni Nashville Hotel.

Tennessee Hospitality Association President and CEO Greg Adkins told The Tennessean that the problem finding qualified workers is greater than the industry expected.

Among those in high demand are culinary and housekeeping staffers. The newspaper reports some businesses are considering applicants with no experience just to fill the need.

In addition to customer service staff, hotels also are having a difficult time filling administrative jobs.

Loews Vanderbilt general manager Tony Phillips said he's looking to fill more than 30 vacancies.

"With the growth of the hospitality industry in Nashville, all of the hotels are really focused on recruitment," he said. "To find the best of the best right now, it's either go outside of Nashville or go outside the industry to find customer service folks."

Two factors have work together to create the issue: the opening of the Omni, the anchor hotel for the new downtown convention center, and several new popular restaurants.

Omni director of sales and marketing Tod Roadarmel says the facility has hired 680 full-time staffers, but still has 50 openings.

"First of all, our experience has been good, frankly," Roadarmel said. "It's probably because we're the new kid in town. We've been very happy. We're still a little short."

Restaurateur Randy Rayburn said restaurants prefer to hire employees who have a culinary education and some experience.

He said the current hiring environment has already led to prospective employees relocating to Nashville.

"It's a pleasant predicament, really," he said. "You don't want to have higher unemployment and not enough jobs. I think this sends the signal to the rest of the country that we're a world-class hospitality and customer service city and the jobs are here."

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