Local businesses struggle to hire, turn to hiring bonuses

SPOKANE, Wash. — The hospitality industry’s instability has local business owners struggling to hire.

Some owners are turning to hiring bonuses as a way to attract potential employees. Two local businesses, the Eat Good Group and Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters, are doing just that.

Jason Green, the director of finance for the Eat Good Group, said the pandemic has forced them to close and reopen a few times, which is turning some employees away.

They had to change their strategy in a competitive market, now offering $1,000 hiring bonus to potential hires throughout the summer. That money would go to people who work in the kitchen, which has difficult positions to fill. That would include dishwashers and cooks. Green added that they will give that money to their current “back of the house,” kitchen employees, too.

“It’s $250 on the day they start working for us, $250 after they’ve been here for a month and then another $500 in September after we’ve gotten through the summertime,” Green said of the incentive for new hires.

It’s a competition now, especially in Kootenai County since sales pick up when the tourists roll in this summer. The pandemic and the shortage of workers have shifted how they’re hiring in the industry now.

The standards used to be high, looking for people with several years of experience. Now, Green says they will hire anyone, including those still in high school.

“There’s no pool of people to choose from. You can have standards when there’s a big bag of people to choose from. Right now, there are no people, so we’re willing to forgo some of the standards we used to have and we’re just going to train you,” Green said.

Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters is going through the same thing. Even during the pandemic, the local coffee chain has opened new locations, including one opening next week on the South Hill. But, they are in need of baristas and offering a $300 bonus for some positions.

“I think when everything got shut down, or slowed down, you saw this transition of workers from our industry to other industries that started to boom,” said McKee Sitts, the district manager of Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters.

The culmination of the pandemic and reopening brewed up a storm for the hospitality industry. Local restaurants and shops were used to pandemic-era business –  shorter hours, fewer workers and more restrictions. Now, rules are loosening and people are ready to get out. Some businesses were not ready for that demand so quickly.

“Business continues to get busier, things are going back to normal and we need people to help us get there,” Sitts adds.

If you are looking for work, you can find applications for the Eat Group Group here and Thomas Hammer here. 

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