Hospitality Industry Uses COVID-19 Recovery Funds to Help Fill Jobs, Leading to Over 680,000 applications

People speaking with one another on the floor of a job fair.

A workforce recruitment campaign designed to fill post-pandemic vacancies at restaurants and hotels has now led to 687,084 total applications started through the Serving Careers website.

Serving Careers was first launched by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) in October 2023. It was funded by a $5 million appropriation from the state’s American Rescue Plan funds, with oversight and administrative support from the North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office (NCPRO).

“The campaign was so powerful because it was real,” said Steve Thanhauser, co-owner of the Angus Barn restaurant in Raleigh, which participated in Serving Careers. “They talked to real people in every facet of the industry about why it means so much to them, how it’s helped them accomplish their goals. And people never forget a great story.”

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The NCRLA’s campaign included interviews, video testimonials, and behind-the-scenes footage from Angus Barn and dozens of other businesses to help promote the benefits of working in the industry and the opportunities it offers. Serving Careers was distributed through streaming video, TV, social media, radio, billboards, bus ads, and included public relations and recruitment efforts at job fairs across the state. The NCRLA also conducted town halls to learn more about the needs of hospitality businesses which also inform its workforce recruitment strategy.

Every region benefits from Serving Careers

The campaign aims to help rebuild the industry by driving prospective job candidates to ServingCareers.com, where they can search for hospitality openings through a custom jobs portal. Regionally it’s led to:

  • 223,383 application starts in the Triangle
  • 218,258 application starts in the Charlotte metro area
  • 141,311 application starts in the Triad
  • 46,856 application starts in the Greenville-New Bern-Washington market
  • 27,170 application starts in the Asheville region
  • 13,161 application starts in the Wilmington market

“We’re really proud that this campaign has reached every single nook and cranny of our state,” said NCRLA president and CEO Lynn Minges. “It’s impressive to know we’re really touching lives and touching businesses in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.”

While the paid promotion of Serving Careers ended in May, the website and its jobs portal will remain active through May 2025.

Written by North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office.