For some families, the COVID-19 pandemic has created added stress about work schedules, schooling and childcare. For others, the pandemic has turned their lives upside down.
The worry the pandemic brings to a family is real. It impacts those who get the virus, their loved ones and the health care providers that work hard to support them.
But the pandemic also has been difficult for the more than 17,000 employees who once worked in Hamilton County in the restaurant industry. Final totals won’t be in until months from now, but it’s likely that number of persons employed in the hospitality industry dropped considerably in the past year. Local tourism was down more than 35% through the end of 2020, which likely also impacted hospitality employment numbers.
Pre-pandemic, these chefs, servers, front-desk, and back-of-the-house support staff comprised more than 10% of the county’s workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
They work early in the morning, nights and on weekends so we can all enjoy their great food and hospitality.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that nationally higher-wage workers have actually seen an increase in available jobs in 2020, while these front-line workers who hustle to serve have seen available work decline more than 20 percent.
The AP also reports that nationally, spending on restaurants and hotels is down more than 36 percent compared to January 2020. It is estimated that almost 29 percent of all small businesses that closed during the lock-down have not yet “re-opened.” Many of these are restaurants.
Hamilton County Tourism’s The Great Dine Out promotion is one of many community-sponsored campaigns that seek to encourage dining out or in during the coming bleak weeks of winter – at a time when the pandemic and challenging weather would likely inspire us to stay home and heat a frozen pizza.
Our community has already lost several iconic restaurants to this crisis. Statewide, one in five restaurants already has closed. These are the very places that make a community home. These are where birthdays, graduations and anniversaries are celebrated. Where memories are made.
We hope you will thoughtfully and purposefully plan to increase spending at our local restaurants as much as your budget will allow this winter. If dining “in” does not feel comfortable to you, almost every restaurant has developed creative ways to take their delicious food “out” for you to enjoy safely at home.
And while you’re at it, tip generously if you can.
That front-line employee working on a frigid Saturday night to give you safe curbside service for your delicious pub burger or breaded tenderloin deserves our thanks and welcome support.
We know you’re up for this challenge, Hamilton County. You got this.
Thank you for supporting our local restaurants, breweries, and hospitality establishments so that next summer they’ll be there for you to enjoy.
Visit DineOutHamiltonCounty.com to learn how you can make a difference.

Brenda Myers is the President/CEO of the Hamilton County Tourism Team