RALEIGH, N.C. — According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 53,000 Americans got jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries in December. However, overall employment in those industries has gone down by 7.2% since February of 2020.

A new app called Gigpro launched in Raleigh last week, and it could help address the labor shortage in the hospitality industry.


What You Need To Know

Employment in the hospitality industry has gone down by 7.2% since February 2020

Gigpro, an on-demand hospitality workforce app, launched in the Triangle last week

Ben Ellsworth launched Gigpro in 2019 and hopes it helps address the industry’s labor shortage

One Raleigh restaurant group says they have a lot of job openings and would be willing to try Gigpro to fill shifts


Gigpro is similar to Uber, but instead of applying to be a driver, users are looking for on-demand shifts in the hospitality industry as a dishwasher or line cook.

Amanda Ziminski, the director of operations for Empire Eats in Raleigh, has worked for the group since 2013.

“I’ve never experienced the turnover to be so impactful,” Ziminski said.

The Empire Eats hospitality group has more than 12 brands and when it comes to the number of open positions, Ziminski said, “Dozens is an understatement, amongst the entire group.”

“In terms of the most difficult position to fill right now, I don’t have an answer for that. The true answer is all of them,” Ziminski said.

She says this job market is very different compared to what happened in 2008.

“That was probably our best time and our glory years when we had folks that were just looking for jobs. I’m talking PHDs and folks who had master's degrees were coming to work for us as bartenders and servers because they had no other choice. This was a confusing time for us because most people were laid off because of COVID, but it wasn’t a recession. It was a pandemic,” Ziminski said.

She says Empire Eats has a low turnover rate when it comes to the industry, and they’ll continue doing what they can to be a place where people want to work.

“It’s really important they understand the culture of Empire Eats and that truly is community-driven, family-based, work-life balance,” Ziminski said.


It’s no secret the hospitality industry can be hard to work in, but Ziminski says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I couldn’t imagine going through COVID in any other industry. We’re just a tight-knit community, and I love it. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Ziminski said.

Ziminski says the hospitality industry has made it through tough times before so she’s confident they will come out of this as well. She’s also willing to try something new like the Gigpro app in order to help fill shifts.

The Gigpro app is available in the App Store and Google Play.
The Gigpro app is available in the App Store and Google Play.

In 2019, Ben Ellsworth launched a prototype of Gigpro in Charleston, South Carolina. Now there are 13 markets on the app, including the Triangle, Charlotte and Asheville.

Ellsworth spent more than 25 years in hospitality and says the labor shortage is not necessarily new but credits that to low wages, lack of incentive and flexibility as well as poor work-life balance. Ellsworth wants Gigpro to address all those things.

“We are trying to attract people back to the industry. What do people want right now? They want more money, and they want flexibility,” Ellsworth said. “We empower a workforce not only with an on-demand rate, you're going to be making a little more money because they need you now and the demand is great. But I can also go into a place and take a look around and see if it's the right spot for me. We believe that that will lead to retention and help both sides.”

“Right now it's a game of speed. The labor shortage is so high,” Ellsworth said. “How do I get help quick so I can maintain production so I can continue to drive revenue? Then at the same exact time how do I get my business in front of as many possible applicants as fast as possible? We take care of both of those.”

Ellsworth says, in saturated markets like Charleston, workers can definitely work full-time on the app. He also says they are filling 1,200 shifts a week in Charleston and some businesses are getting 67% of their labor from Gigpro.