Featured photo: Roar in downtown Winston-Salem is set to open up in stages this year. (courtesy photo)
Hiring more than 100 employees during a massive service-industry shortage is no easy task, but that’s what the people behind Roar need to do to run Winston-Salem’s newest dining and entertainment facility.
Roar is located on North Liberty Street, where Twin-City Motor Co. used to be. Mayfair Street Partners purchased the 42,000-square-foot, three-floor building in 2019, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, and will offer bowling lanes, golf and basketball simulators and a vast array of restaurants, among other things.
“That is a lot of employment opportunities here for this city,” said Gabe Higgins, Roar’s live entertainment director. “It’s not a hurdle. It’s a high point.”
Higgins and the others at Roar plan to open the first part of the facility before the end of the month. To operate at full capacity, the facility needs servers, bartenders, line cooks, hostesses, sound techs, janitorial staff and even beer wall ambassadors, who will stand at the 90 beer taps across three floors and serve customers.
Higgins said Roar has advertised with Indeed, an online hiring website, teamed up with local colleges and run job fairs out of Hotel Indigo located nearby. The facility needs approximately 80 employees to get started and 125 at full capacity.
“We are opening in sections,” Higgins said. “The entire building is not going to open next week, and my focus is the entertainment center. We’re going to have about a 700-person occupancy and bring in national acts. That’s another part that I’m really excited about. We don’t have to ride to Greensboro or run over to Charlotte. That will be opening in March, over St. Patrick’s Weekend.”
So far, Higgins says Roar hasn’t had a problem with hiring, which he thinks is, in part, because of the benefits offered with a full-time job at the business, which include health insurance and 401-K contributions.
“A lot of time with a typical service job, you don’t have those options,” he said.
Roar comes to Winston-Salem at a time when other small businesses, even those in the downtown area, are suffering. Some are pushing to stay open, while others have shut their doors.
Peyton Smith, owner of Mission Pizza, says he does not have concerns about his own business, but does worry about downtown Winston-Salem as a whole.
“If we can’t see a rebound soon, then it’s not about our business going away but having to explore alternate options with where to put or how to conduct my business,” Smith said. “But I don’t anticipate that decision being taken out of my hands.”
On the other hand, Vivian Joyner, former co-owner of Sweet Potatoes, made the difficult decision to close her business for a day earlier this month because of staffing shortages.
“We haven’t really had staff leave,” she said. “We’ve had staff be out. We’re working with a skeleton crew, so if a staff member has been out with COVID, depending on where that staff member is, we can’t continue.”
Joyner has seen the same thing happen to several businesses she knows. That said, she has hopes that Roar will be good for the community.
“Sweet Potatoes has been around for 19 years, and we hold nothing but a welcome mat for a new business that comes into the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s good for everyone. We’ve lost several really good restaurants over the last year and a half, so to have a new neighbor, we welcome them to the neighborhood and wish them the best.”
Even with a smooth hiring process, Roar has had its share of struggles. Joseph Correll of Mayfair Street Partners, the company that owns Roar, says that the project was supposed to launch last year, but that the pandemic set them back.
If all inspections go according to plan, he hopes to open part of the food hall before the end of January.
“Opening in phases allows us to test out all the functionality of the different places of the building,” said Correll. “Being able to phase that stuff means you can catch issues maybe quicker than you could fire it up at once. Of course, it allows us to train smaller and more hands-on groups. But make no mistake, our goal is to get the place open as quickly as we can.”
Roar currently has a handful of staff on board, and Correll sent out several offer letters last week. They are planning on hiring at least 40 people over the next month.
“The challenge is real of getting people and retaining them,” said Correll. “Part of it is encouraging people, if they left because of being burnt out, there’s a lot of ways we can encourage them to come back through better benefits.”
Roar is located at 633 North Liberty Street and will open within the next month. Learn more at roarws.com.
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