It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused a massive employee shortage in the hospitality industry. My wife, Cindy, and I have owned Il Vinaio in downtown Mesa for 12 years and, while we have been through our share of challenges, the recent lack of qualified workers has been one of the hardest to overcome. We’ve spent nearly $1,500 in advertisements looking for workers and we’ve had job offers out there but people just wouldn’t show up.
Help came to us in the least likely of places — our customers. Sally Kellett had been a regular of ours for more than eight years. She previously owned a popular bar and restaurant in Tempe called Mustang Sally’s, so when she started coming to eat at Il Vinaio we had an immediate shared connection.
Kellett was in for a wine tasting when she asked us how business was going. We told her we were having a difficult time finding help. It was then that Kellett offered to come out of retirement to work part time for us.
We also hired the daughter of another long-time customer of ours as a server and the nephew of a regular as a dishwasher. Neither had prior hospitality experience and both are working out great.
Our customers have always been so supportive and when they heard of our hiring woes they jumped to action. We look at our employees, customers and community all as one big family, without whom we wouldn’t be here today. We are still actively looking for employees, especially in the back of house, but it’s been really incredible to see this particular story unfold.
Cameron Selogie is managing partner and executive chef of Il Vinaio