LYNDHURST, N.J. — After months of hunkering down and steering clear of public places in fear of contracting COVID-19, Imani Washington is ready to get back to work.
The Newark resident was among the many applicants on hand at a hospitality job fair hosted by the Meadowlands Chamber on Friday.
“I am in need of a job in order for me to [pay for] school so I think right now is the time to actually go out and find [one],” she told PIX11 News.
From wait staff to front desk clerks and housekeeping positions, several hotels and restaurants in the area are looking to fill the void left by COVID.
The ripple effects are still being felt.
“Restaurants are making decisions about closing for lunch and opening for dinner because they just don’t have enough staff.,” explained Jim Kirkos, CEO of Meadowlands Chamber. “Hotels are selling 50% occupancy instead of 80% occupancy at their properties because they can’t turn over rooms.”
Owners of the venue Il Villaggio in Carlstadt have run out of ideas on how to recruit staff, using everything from Craigslist to Facebook — they’ve come up empty-handed.
Their expectations for the fair are realistic.
“If we get one good person it will be worth it, but hopefully we get more than that coming in,” Angela Magliocchetti said.
While the Meadowlands hospitality industry is expected to get a jolt with more shops opening at American Dream shopping center — it also faces stiffer competition.
Amazon announced this week it will hire nearly 9,000 more workers at fulfillment centers across New Jersey and is luring candidates with higher wages and better benefits. Experts say that could spark a bidding war for workers.
In the event you missed out on Friday’s fair, organizers say it will be the first of many.
The goal is to get the industry back on its feet. The chamber is expecting to host the next fair in the coming weeks.