Within a day of the statewide suspension of all in-house bar and restaurant service to help slow the spread of coronavirus, layoffs began, and thousands of servers, cooks, bartenders and other hospitality employees across the state are now out of work. But at least one sector of the food-service industry is seeing such an increase in demand that new employees are needed.
Etai Bar-on, whose family owns Izzio Artisan Bakery in Louisville, says the facility can't keep up with orders from grocery stores and markets right now as products, especially staples like bread, are flying off the shelves. "Grocery stores can't keep up; everybody's witnessed that," he notes. "There's been an overnight shift in consumer habits."
As a result, Bar-on is in the process of hiring twenty to thirty new employees at the bakery for all shifts. He says there are some entry-level positions that will require training once filled, as well as positions for experienced bakers, especially those with food-safety training and experience. "We have to follow much stricter health regulations that even restaurants," Bar-on adds.
The bakery owner says that he can't speak for all food-production companies, but he thinks that other similar wholesale businesses are in a similar situation. "Most of us have extra capacity, but you have to ramp up — you just can't turn it on overnight," he explains.
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Bar-on says that restaurant experience doesn't always translate to the kind of work bakers perform at Izzio, but there are plenty of similarities, including working non-standard hours, being on your feet for long shifts, working at a set station and understanding safe food handling. The bakery is following recommended CDC practices for minimizing the potential spread of illness, such as limiting any space within the facility to ten workers at a time, including break rooms. That means the company has had to make adjustments to shifts and break schedules, but Bar-on says the bakers' work stations are already fairly large and spread out.
Izzio has traditionally focused on the artisan bread market, which Bar-on says involved competing with other producers for shelf space at grocery stores. "But right now, we have a different role to play, and that's to keep food on the shelves," he adds.
In addition to the commercial bakery, the Bar-on family runs an Izzio Bakery inside Denver Central Market, at 2669 Larimer Street, and Etai's Bakery Cafe in Stapleton, which is staying open for pick-up orders only, though Bar-on notes that takeout business has been slow so far, because "people just want to be home." But at Denver Central Market, he points out, the food hall has turned more into a grocery market, since in-house drinking and dining are prohibited until May 11, and many of the vendors were already set up with food options such as bread and other baked goods, meats, cheeses, pasta, chocolate, coffee, produce and prepared meals.
Interested applicants can visit Izzio Bakery's website employment page to submit a résumé.