PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Business leaders from across Palm Beach County came together Tuesday for a virtual roundtable to layout how they endured the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Local industry leaders shared their experiences of operating during these challenging times for a forum called "Open for Business: Season Wrap-up" hosted by Palm Beach State College.
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Participants discussed the business model shifts and best practices implemented to save the 2020-21 tourist season.
This is the third "Open for Business" hospitality industry virtual roundtable since the pandemic began.
The first roundtable discussion was held Aug. 11 and focused on "Best Practices for the New Normal in Hospitality," and the second on Oct. 27 examined the "Lessons Learned: Propelling Into 2021."
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus, but now that most doors are back open there is a new challenge.
Due South Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach was forced to pivot to endure the challenges caused by the COVID shutdown.
"We couldn't have anyone here at the taproom to enjoy a beer. We had to focus all on our grocery and our beer store sales," Due South brand manager Doug Fairall said.
Due South has a large open space that allows for social distancing, but since last year, weekends can be hit or miss.
"It's harder to gauge when people are going to stop by our taproom," Fairall said.
Due South was among the participants at Tuesday's hospitality and tourism round table discussion.
The conversation was about businesses overcoming obstacles during the pandemic. But the latest struggle is a staffing shortage in the hospitality industry.
"Owners are cooking, hours are restricted, dayparts are being shut down, and we're looking for out-of-the-box alternative ways to get people trained up into the culinary and hospitality industries," said Jodi Cross, the regional director of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. "We're really competing with unemployment at this point. That's what's going on in the industry."
She said many hotels and restaurants can't go to full occupancy because they're short of workers, many of whom left the industry.
According to CareerSource, about 1,800 jobs have been added since the new year in the leisure and hospitality industry.
Due South said luckily it's not short of workers, but right now it's also not looking to hire any more employees.
"It's been a slow move back to what we consider our pre-COVID normal," Fairall said.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is hoping once more people are vaccinated that more workers will want to reenter the industry.
It's also looking to partner with nonprofits and trade schools to train new workers.