Bars and restaurants in Milwaukee's East Side neighborhoods are making a collective push to address an industry-wide obstacle: hiring workers.
Almost 30 establishments will participate in the Greater East Side Restaurant & Bar Job Fair, taking place this weekend at Casablanca restaurant on Brady Street.
The event is being put on by the Brady Street, East Side, and Downer Avenue Business Improvement Districts to help operators staff up as business returns to pre-pandemic levels.
"We’re excited to see people starting to come out again, but these business owners are struggling to find staff to meet operational demands," executive directors Rachel Taylor (Brady Street BID) and Liz Brodek (East Side and Downer Ave BIDs) said in a news release. "Our jobs are to help our stakeholders, and this seemed like a natural response to their needs. Banding the BIDs together makes this a stronger, more robust effort that we hope will benefit our businesses."
Participating establishments, which run the gamut from The Diplomat on Brady Street to McDonald's on North Avenue, are looking to fill both part-time seasonal and full-time positions, including line cooks, wait staff, and managers. Applications will be available on site. Find a complete list of participating businesses here.
"We’re participating in the job fair because we’re trying to be really flexible and creative with our application process and want to make this as quick and easy as possible for qualified candidates," said Marla Poytinger, co-owner of Bars & Recreation, Inc., the operator of AXE MKE, NorthSouth Club, Splash Studio, and Nine Below.
Previously, she said, the company's application process could take up to three weeks, but with Milwaukee's restrictions on capacity and gathering-size set to lift June 1, time is of the essence.
Bars & Recreation is looking to hire five to 10 "frontline staff" for its downtown activity bars. That's on top of three new hires from the company's own job fair last weekend.
"Those three people were willing and ready to work, so the job fair allowed us to expedite our process and get them onboarded and into our training protocol in just a few days," said Poytinger.
Bars & Recreation offers competitive wages plus medical, dental, and vision benefits for qualified employees.
The East Side job fair is just one hiring effort currently underway.
The Bartolotta Restaurants recently announced three job fairs, on May 22, May 26, and June 15, at The Italian Community Center in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. The group is hiring at its reopened locations, Ristorante Bartolotta, Lake Park Bistro, Mr. B’s – A Bartolotta Steakhouse in Brookfield and Mequon, Bacchus, Harbor House, Joey Gerard’s – a Bartolotta Supper Club, and Bartolotta catering facilities, as well as Bartolotta’s at Kohl’s corporate campus in Menomonee Falls. Open positions range from cooks to maintenance workers, requiring entry-level to seasoned experience.
Bartolotta's upcoming job fairs follow two hiring events hosted in April, as well as the company's welcome home hiring campaign, resulting in the additions of 60 new and returning team members, according to Paul Bartolotta, co-founder, owner and chef.
"We are truly lucky to be hiring after such a challenging year, and our goal is to be fully staffed in each of our open restaurants and to hire employees that are a great fit for The Bartolotta Restaurants," he said. "Ultimately, we are looking for team members who have what we call a 'hospitality heart' who are committed to excellence just like we are and have a true passion for taking care of our guests."
The company laid off the majority of its then-950-employee base early in the pandemic and, since last July, has been working to rehire former employees and bring on new talent as its restaurant locations reopen one-by-one.
On Tuesday, Milwaukee Brewers' food and beverage concessions operator, Delaware North, hosted a hiring event for open positions at American Family Field and Restaurant To Be Named Later.