Restaurant Openings Attract Many Job Applicants

Not long ago, coast restaurant owners and others in the service industry had trouble finding and keeping qualified employees.

The lure of higher paying casino jobs created tough competition for service related businesses.

That was just a few years ago.

But the recent economic downturn, including casino layoffs, has dramatically changed the coast job market.

The new "Hooters" on the beach in Biloxi won't be open for a few more weeks. But restaurant executives are already encouraged by the flood of job applicants they've received.

"We've had a tremendous response. Over 200 applicants yesterday alone. I've been in the business a long time and I haven't seen anything as wonderful as this," said general manager, Peter Meleones.

Job applicants include laid off casino workers and others looking for a second income.

Tesserae Rangel fits that "second job" category. She's looking for part time work to supplement her hair stylist's salary.

"Business has dropped off considerably in the past several months. So I'm hoping this can be another avenue I can pursue to help me out," said Rangel.

Hooters isn't the only new restaurant experiencing an abundance of job applications. A new seafood restaurant on Pass Road in Gulfport has received more than 500 applications for just 30 available jobs.

Bob Miller is helping oversee construction of the new "Catch of the Day" restaurant and the hiring of help. The economic slowdown means he'll have a far larger pool of potential restaurant workers.

"We do insurance benefits. We do paid vacations. We felt we needed to compete with the casinos and our whole company approach has been take good care of our family and they'll stick with you. And we can grow restaurants that way," said Miller.

The current coast job market may be just right for such growth.