Hot Kitchen Or Hot Industry? Marijuana Drawing Workers Away From Food Service Jobs in Denver

The creation of thousands of jobs by the marijuana industry has led to an unusual situation: people who once served food in restaurants now serve cannabis at dispensaries.

It’s reached the point in some places, such as Denver, where restaurants are having a hard time filling out staffs.

“Our workforce is being drained by the pot industry,” one Denver restaurant owner, Bryan Dayton, told Bloomberg. “There’s a very small work pool as it is. Enter the weed business, which pays $22 an hour with full benefits. You can come work in a kitchen for us for eight hours a day, in a hot kitchen. It’s a stressful life. Or you can go sort week in a climate-controlled greenhouse.

“It’s a pretty obvious choice.”

Drawing Workers Away: Practical Considerations

As noted by Dayton, much of the shift away from restaurants and to the marijuana industry comes down to money and other practical factors.

Money. Yes, you can make around $22 an hour working in a grow facility. A budtender at a dispensary might make around $15 per hour, but that doesn’t include the tips they get for helping people select just the right strain of cannabis.

Environment. Anyone who has ever worked at a restaurant knows you have to hustle, whether you are in the kitchen, waiting tables or busing tables. It’s actually a lot of fun if you have the right personality, but many would prefer the air conditioned comfort and low-key pace of working in marijuana-related businesses.

Security. Part of the nature of the restaurant business, with some exceptions, is that it comes and goes. Even chains routinely shut down under-performing branches. But the marijuana industry continues to explode in growth. In Colorado alone, the industry has created more than 18,000 jobs, according to a report issued last year.

There also are a wide variety of jobs, including chefs who design marijuana edibles, security for dispensaries, transportation and the various other jobs within a dispensary. Grow houses also require a large number of workers.

Certainly there is a market for jobs in Denver for both marijuana and restaurant workers. The marijuana boom hit about the same time as growth on the restaurant scene, according to Bloomberg. Denver has become very popular with millennials, and U.S. News and World Report named it the best place to live in 2016.

Marijuana Over Alcohol

In a related bit of information, Dayton also told Bloomberg his liquor sales are down 2 percent as people decide to reach for cannabis rather than a cocktail for relaxation time. That translates into about $100,000 for him. He said distributors he talks with have reported a similar percentage downturn.

It might be a sign of things to come. A recent study found 27 percent of beer drinkers have already substituted marijuana for beer. The same study projected that cannabis could draw as much as $2 billion annually from alcohol sales if it became legal nationwide (not likely under the current administration in the White House).

Still, it’s yet another example of how popular cannabis is becoming, both for medicinal and recreational use.

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