Breaking News
More () »

Norfolk hotel staff stretched thin, managers hunting for hires before summer

"We are absolutely scared to death. We are going to have one of the best Memorial Day Weekends coming up, but we don’t have the staff to do it."

NORFOLK, Va. — The unemployment rate didn’t change much in April, sticking around six percent. But hospitality industry leaders in Norfolk say there are a lot of jobs up for grabs, especially at hotels.  

“We are one gas tank away from 72 million people,” said Visit Norfolk CEO Kurt Krause. “And those people want to get out. They are tired of being cooped up inside.” 

Summer 2021 looks promising, but Krause said staffing issues stand in the way.

“We are absolutely scared to death,” Krause said. “We are going to have one of the best Memorial Day Weekends coming up, but we don’t have the staff to do it.”  

Krause said many Norfolk hotels have enough demand to sell out on busy nights but can only accommodate 80 percent of that demand due to staffing shortages, mostly in housekeeping.

The need is stretching staff at the Waterside Marriott thin, with 60 unfilled positions. 

“Engineers, managers, front of house, front desk, there is not a position that isn’t open right now,” said Waterside Marriott General Manager Jesse Hemphill.   

Hemphill said to maintain quality on busy weekends, they sometimes block off rooms, even restaurant space. 

“More tables closed down because we just can’t get enough food in a timely manner to people,” Hemphill said.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released an unexpected, underwhelming jobs report on Friday. The U.S. added only 266,000 jobs in April. But the report highlighted notable gains in the hospitality industry.

“It’s millions of that were eliminated in our industry,” Krause said. “While that is a great increase, it still doesn’t get into a significant portion that we need.” 

There’s no time to wait on applications. Krause said they are tackling barriers that keep people from applying, like daycare concerns and more.

“The Hampton Roads Workforce Council, they have committed to helping with training into our industry,” Krause said.

Hemphill said pay at his Marriott Hotel ranges from about $12 to $18 an hour. He’s desperate for help, but above all asks the community to be patient. 

“When you go to a restaurant and your meal takes a long time right now, or your room is not ready, it’s not poor management, there are just no people to keep up with it,” Hemphill said.

The shortages stretch across the 757.

This week the Virginia Beach Hotel and Restaurant Associations put on a virtual job fair to attempt to fill more than 1,000 open positions. Organizers told us they had more than 200 interested applicants attend. They said hotel and restaurant owners are already making offers to potential employees.

“Throughout the day we started the day with 136 signed up and ended up with 205 participating,” said VBRA Executive Director Stacey Shiflet. “So, that felt really good, and really great qualified applicants came through.”

Hotel and restaurant job openings across the area can be found on the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association's online job board.

Before You Leave, Check This Out