With job applicants few and far between, Hamilton’s hospitality industry gets creative

Tano Bistro is now open at 150 Riverfront Plaza on the corner of Dayton Street and Riverfront Plaza on the first floor of The Marcum, a new mixed-use development, in Hamilton. Tano Bistro's Hamilton location, a 100-seat dining space, will initially open at 4 for but dinner but may expand hours in the future. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Tano Bistro is now open at 150 Riverfront Plaza on the corner of Dayton Street and Riverfront Plaza on the first floor of The Marcum, a new mixed-use development, in Hamilton. Tano Bistro's Hamilton location, a 100-seat dining space, will initially open at 4 for but dinner but may expand hours in the future. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Like most in the hospitality industry, the last year has offered one challenge after another for Tyler McCleary with Tano Bistro in Hamilton. Now, more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, he said he has a new problem.

As Gov. Mike DeWine gradually loosens public health restrictions, McCleary is thinking ahead to opening the restaurant to both indoor and outdoor dining. Problem is, there isn’t the staff to pull it off.

Hamilton business leaders hope a new online portal will help connect employers with job-seekers.

“With front-of-house staffing and kitchen, there’s only so much,” McCleary, Tano’s director of operations, told WCPO. “They’re human beings. There’s only so much they can do. I don’t want to tire anyone out.”

It’s created an applicant’s job market in his industry.

“I’m sure it’s overwhelming because, frankly, everyone is hiring,” he told WCPO. “It’s more of a where do I choose?”

The Hamilton Amusement Hospitality Association launched its online portal, and Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce president Dan Bates said it could be an answer to the industry’s requests for assistance.

“They were just screaming for, we could do fabulous business if we had the staff,” he said. “I think some people want to sit back and say, ‘Is this going to work?’ We don’t know. We think it’s going to.”

McCleary said he understands the shortage in hospitality workers during a persistent, global pandemic. Bars, restaurants and venues are still operating at limited capacity and many people still are choosing not to go out for dinner and drinks.

But the work comes with some unique benefits, he said.

“Maybe not the giant 401k or big healthcare plan, but it’s fun, flexible, a very unique environment,” he said. “In a time where social interaction is limited, you get that here, right?”

The portal launched initially for Hamilton’s hospitality industry only, but that could soon expand. Find the online portal at www.hamilton-ohio.com/haha.