Pot posing problems for Denver’s restaurant industry

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Despite the growing population in Denver, Colorado, its new residents have little interest in working in the restaurant business since they can find higher-paying jobs in the marijuana industry.

According to Bloomberg, Denver is seeing quite a few new restaurants open in the city, but their owners are finding it challenging to fill positions in their kitchens and on their waitstaffs.

“Our work force is being drained by the pot industry,” Denver restaurateur Bryan Dayton said.

“Enter the weed business, which pays $22 an hour with full benefits,” added Dayton. “You can come work in a kitchen for (me) for eight hours a day, in a hot kitchen. It’s a stressful life. Or you can go sort weed in a climate-controlled greenhouse. It’s a pretty obvious choice.”

Restaurant owners argue that competing on wages is difficult—workers at various levels in the marijuana industry are generally paid much better because revenues are higher.

Fortune reported that, in 2016 alone, the marijuana industry in Colorado earned revenues surpassing $1 billion, and $150 million in tax revenue for the state.

Restauranteurs contend that dispensaries and growhouses do not have margins or overhead similar to those in the restaurant industry.

“If you make 10 percent profit in the restaurant business, you are in the hall of fame as a great operator,” award-winning sommelier and Denver restaurateur Bobby Stuckey told Bloomberg. “Compare that to most other businesses — and presumably the legal pot industry — where if you did 20 percent profit, you would be fired.”

Stuckey also argued that marijuana dispensaries — which offer strong strains of pot and THC-infused edibles — are largely to blame for a 2 percent drop in alcohol sales at his restaurants, and contended that patrons are choosing to get high instead of drink.

Better wages are not the only aspect of the marijuana industry that attracts would-be restaurant workers. There are new opportunities for bakers and pastry chefs in the edible pot sector, according to Jennifer Jasinski, who owns multiple eateries in Denver.

“Laced candies and gummy bears are sought-after treats when they are made well, so pastry chefs and cooks can make them for three to four times the money a restaurant can pay,” Jasinski told Bloomberg.

Conversely, Eater cites a study from The Oregonian which revealed that dispensary employees in Oregon, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2015, earned an average of $21,000 in 2016. Josh Lehner of the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis says that is, “well below the average annual wage in Oregon.”

Despite Denver’s employment challenges, Dayton claims that there is an upside to all the marijuana consumption in the city—more people are getting the munchies.

H/T: New York Post


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