"It's just tough": Underwhelming turnout at DIA's concessions job fair

DEN job fair
Posted at 4:45 PM, Oct 23, 2021

DENVER — The enthusiasm was a mile high at Empower Field on Saturday, and not for just another Bronco's game.

"We've got a very lofty goal to see about 5,000 people show up today," Denver Concessionaires Association (DCA) President Dennis Deslongchamp said.

His team and Denver International Airport's leadership helped organize a job fair at the United Club. It featured representatives from nearly 170 concessions, like stores and restaurants.

"We've got anything from entry-level positions all the way up to top executive management available out here," Deslongchamp said.

The goal was to hire about 1,000 workers to fill jobs at the airport, especially now that concessions have to return to their
standard hours of operation come Nov. 1.

"We are at such a staffing deficit that we'd be grateful for just five, but we're looking to hire over 150," Elisa Lalama, HR director for Skyport Hospitality, said. The company operates concessions at DIA like Shake Shack and Snooze A.M. Eatery.

Deslongchamp says he didn't want to host just any job fair. He wanted prospective employees to obtain career resources and even have a chance at getting the vaccine.

But as the day continued, the concessionaires quickly realized they'd have to keep looking elsewhere to fill their vacant jobs.

"We were expecting the masses to come knocking on our door," Concessions International director of operations Derik Mortenson said.

The company has eight concessions at the airport, including Chick-Fil-A. They need to hire at least 38 workers, and only two people applied.

"People say they need jobs here in Denver, and we were going to provide jobs for a lot of people today, [but] we didn’t," Jerona Poole, assistant manager at DIA's Chick-Fil-A, said.

The low turnout only reassured these concessionaires of the changing job market and how hard it is to hire people for these jobs.

"These are very brick-and-mortar jobs, brick-and-mortar positions, and there's just a change in what's possible now today to earn an income," Mortenson said. "It's just tough on brick-and-mortar operations to fill the positions that once ... had stacks of applications."

Deslongchamp says about 100 people showed up to the job fair, but he doesn't consider it a failure. Instead, it's a stepping point for bigger and better ones with, hopefully, better turnouts.

"We're hoping to make this an annual event," he said.