A total of seven business leaders from the restaurant and retail industry joined our fourth roundtable discussion sponsored by SRP and in partnership with Mayor Brigette Peterson, team members of Gilbert’s Office of Economic Development, the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, and JW Rayhons of Joshua Development.
Our goal was to hear from business who were impacted by the pandemic related restrictions and to learn what challenges they are currently facing to gain insight into their expectations in the year ahead.
When asked to share the biggest challenge their businesses are currently facing, attendees expressed concerns with shifting customer habits, distribution issues, supply costs, and ongoing workforce challenges.
Key takeaways from these areas are:
- Shifting customer habits:
- Business owners are finding it difficult to predict the number of customers they may see in a day, making it challenging to prepare the supplies or staff needed in advance.
- Similar to concerns raised in other roundtable events, businesses noted that customer expectations have shifted. Many customers are expecting a higher level of service which is difficult to accommodate with limited staffing.
- Another concern is the fluctuating comfort level of their customer base, whether due to pandemic related concerns or concerns with potential restrictions that may be in place at the business.
- Distribution and supply costs
- Business owners noted rising costs for building maintenance and other supplies needed for ongoing operations (ex. To-go containers and soap).
- Some are still dealing with shortages of certain supplies. One restaurant owner mentioned the difficulty in securing their signature menu item causing them to alter certain promotions due to lack of supply.
- One business owner mentioned having to turn away business because they did not have enough staff or supplies to handle the workload.
- Workforce challenges:
- Hiring and retaining staff continues to be an issue across many different industries.
- Staying competitive regarding employee pay and benefits.
- Competing with other restaurants for the same employee base.
- Handling any volatility in the workforce regarding employees not showing up for work, quitting after completing training process, or leaving the job for a competitor’s business.
Businesses also shared the common characteristics they are looking for in new staff members and the resources they are currently using to support their hiring needs:
- Common characteristics employers are looking for are soft skills like work ethic, customer service, loyalty, and dependability.
- When asked to share the resources they use to hire, businesses mentioned services such as Indeed, Career Plug, Snag a Job, and Talent Reef. A common way to reach high school or college age employees is through referrals. Many current employees refer their friends for open positions.
In closing, SRP, Town leaders, and the Gilbert Chamber shared the following resources available for businesses:
- SRP Business Rebates: More details available here - https://www.savewithsrpbiz.com/
- #GilbertTogether Resources: Provides a variety of business technical assistance resources from Co+Hoots and Local First. Offering overview can be found on https://www.gilbertaz.gov/business/gilberttogether-business-recovery-program
- Contact Mike Martella in the Economic Development office with specific questions about the support that might help you best (Michael.Martella@Gilbertaz.gov, 480-503-6972)
- Navigating Economic Recovery Workshop Series – provides workshops on a variety of topics designed to address concerns raised during the Business Recovery Roundtable events.