Downtown hotels and restaurants battle hiring woes ahead of College Football National Championship

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INDIANAPOLIS — Downtown Indy was electric Thursday night after the Colts beat the Jets in prime time. That atmosphere will be back in January when the College Football National Championship Game comes to town.

The question now becomes are restaurants and hotels ready for it.

“Hiring across the board across the nation is very tough,” says Patrick Tamm, President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, “We know when [the championship game] is coming so we can properly plan for it.”

The JW Marriott hotel will play host to both teams and fans alike. Right now they are at 65% to 70% percent toward being fully staffed.

Currently High Velocity, a sports bar in the hotel, is the only entity of the building that is fully staffed. The hot spot is currently seeing a 35% increase in revenue compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers.

Hiring shortages still have some parts of the hotel closed down, but they hope to have the entire building fully operational by the time of the championship.

“We are working to fill up our staff on OP Italian restaurant so we can open that,” says Phil Ray, General Manager of the JW Marriot, “We have been working at this for a long time, chipping away at it virtually every week.”

Restaurants say they are constantly looking for new employees via word of mouth or even on social media. The lack of hiring is leading to some servers overseeing more tables. Come January it will truly be an all hands on deck approach to keep up.

“We will be ready one way or another,” smiles Jeff Huron, General Manager of the District Tap downtown, “If I have to put an apron on myself I’ll be ready.”

If you are looking for job, or to return to the hospitality industry, now may be the best time. Businesses we spoke with say it’s easier to get promoted now, and move up the ladder due to so many needs.

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