Circumstances stifle Tex-Mex chain's hiring plans

March 17, 2014
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Restaurant veteran Russell Burns wanted to interview at least three candidates for every job he’s filling at the new Chuy’s in Hamilton Town Center.

But less than three weeks before pre-opening training begins, he’s had just 100 applicants for 140-150 positions at the Tex-Mex eatery. About half made the cut.

Now Burns is bracing himself for what he hopes is a last-minute rush of interest from prospective employees. With opening day set for April 8, the owner-operator is scrambling to fill his staff despite challenges presented by the harsh winter, nearby competition and Hamilton County’s low unemployment rate.

As IBJ reported March 1, the suburban county’s 4.5 percent January jobless rate is the lowest in central Indiana and among the lowest in the state. The shallow pool of candidates makes it hard for employers to fill entry-level jobs. Labor-intensive (and relatively low-paying) restaurants are particularly challenged.

Chuy’s Burns didn’t expect hiring to be easy, but he has been surprised by the slow start. So now he’s casting his net further south, into Marion County.

Among the factors complicating the process: Brazilian chain Tucano’s snapped up more than 100 employees for its Hamilton Town Center location, which opened this month. And Burns suspects some prospective workers are put off by the construction still in progress at Chuy’s. Crews shifted their work indoors during the worst of the winter weather, so the exterior of the restaurant is not yet finished.

Transportation is another potential sticking point, since the suburban lifestyle mall isn’t exactly on a bus line. Burns, a former regional operations director for O’Charley’s restaurants, said managers will help with scheduling if employees want to carpool.

Burns is working to fill out his roster by March 31, when Chuy’s weeklong intensive training starts. Because all the dishes are made from scratch, he needs an experienced kitchen crew in addition to a full complement of front-of-the-house workers.

“We’ll continue to hire if need be,” he said, “but I’d like to be at full staff.”

  • Banned
    Still can't believe we "Banned" light rail.
  • Rail response
    Brad, This restaurant is 6-7 miles east of the proposed light rail. I doubt someone from Marion County really wants to take bus to a train station, take a train north, then take a bus east to the restaurant(if any of this transit existed), for $2.50/hour plus tips. Even if they did, why should the taxpayers subsidize 75% of the cost just so that there is one more Mexican restaurant in Hamilton County (I love them, but there are plenty)? This is the business owner's issue, let them deal with it. Maybe they need to pay more, let the free market work.
    • Rail is the way
      Hey Diddly...did you happen to see that Mall behind the restaurant? Also all the businesses and jobs across the street and land available to be bought. Also all the growing homes and apartment additions on the other side of 69. Would be a perfect situation for them to take the rail to downtown Indy and vice versa. That justifies rail. Sorry bud.
      • Yeah right
        Yeah, I can just see all those low wage workers beating down the door to hop on a train, then take a bus so they can get to the uber-fantastic and UPSCALE mall so they can do shop at the same shops that exist in Circle Center. Makes perfect sense. Let's increase our taxes so we can have that "sexy" train running around hauling no one to nowhere that we can call ourselves progressive and forward thinking and environmental and...holier than thou?
      • Seriously?
        By all means, let's keep the 1900's alternative rather than become a functional 21st century urban/suburban area: tens of thousands of vehicles crowding and beating down the highways and roads daily each carrying ONE person to and from their job, not paying taxes to their non-home county to repair those roads, polluting, having accidents that tie up first respondors and make everyone else crawl along and lose productivity, speeding in residential neighborhoods (NOT their own of course, one is only allowed to speed by someone else's home and kids), ignoring school zones, and crowding motorcycles and bicycles off the road. Eee-gods NO let's not have progress or modernity! Must stay the same. Must not make plans for or allow anything but the almighty 4-wheel vehicle and its idiot driver to monopolize the roads and the agenda!
        • 2 words
          Immigration reform
        • You're In Fantasy Land
          The kids who believe in rail for Indy live in fantasy land. If you're not a kid then you need to wake up and quit drinking the Kool Aid. I happen to like our lifestyle here in Indy. Travel to DC, NYC, Chicago.... The trains are only useful if you have high populations, business density and congestion. Those who live there would love to have our lifestyle. On a hot day, you sweat your ass off walking 10 blocks to the nearest train station trying to get from point A to point B. Your nervous because of the 6 dudes around you all with saggy pants who are eyeballing your gold watch and backpack. On a cold rainy day, you look and smell like crap when you show up for your business meeting. This happens EVERY DAY. Oh yea....that's progress in a 21st century city. Why don't you move there and leave the rest of us alone?

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        1. Really, taking someone managing the regulation of Alcohol and making himthe President of an IVY Tech regional campus. Does he have an education background?

        2. Jan, great rant. Now how about you review the report and offer rebuttal of the memo. This might be more conducive to civil discourse than a wild rant with no supporting facts. Perhaps some links to support your assertions would be helpful

        3. I've lived in Indianapolis my whole and been to the track 3 times. Once for a Brickyard, once last year on a practice day for Indy 500, and once when I was a high school student to pick up trash for community service. In the past 11 years, I would say while the IMS is a great venue, there are some upgrades that would show that it's changing with the times, just like the city is. First, take out the bleachers and put in individual seats. Kentucky Motor Speedway has individual seats and they look cool. Fix up the restrooms. Add wi-fi. Like others have suggested, look at bringing in concerts leading up to events. Don't just stick with the country music genre. Pop music would work well too I believe. This will attract more young celebrities to the Indy 500 like the kind that go to the Kentucky Derby. Work with Indy Go to increase the frequency of the bus route to the track during high end events. That way people have other options than worrying about where to park and paying for parking. Then after all of this, look at getting night lights. I think the aforementioned strategies are more necessary than night racing at this point in time.

        4. Talking about congestion ANYWHERE in Indianapolis is absolutely laughable. Sure you may have to wait in 5 minutes of traffic to travel down BR avenue during *peak* times. But that is absolutely nothing compared to actual big cities. Indy is way too suburban to have actual congestion problems. So please, never bring up "congestion" as an excuse to avoid development in Indianapolis. If anything, we could use a little more.

        5. Oh wait. Never mind.