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.”

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  • 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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        2. Its easy to blame workers. What about the Management of the Mill. Its not smart in business to not have a back up plan. Workers are afforded sick days in most cases. Union or not. Whether drunk partying, or a real sickness. Why would you as a businessman/woman not have a rotation of workers incase this happens. This is not an exclusive union protection. If the company can prove bad intentions on the part of any union employee. They can take action. Most CBA's have a 3 strike policy. Just like most Non-union company policies. You should read a CBA sometime. There are protections for companies too. Unions understand that businesses need to make money. If they don't, the union's member won't have a place to work.

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