By Marc Bona, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – The announcement that Happy Dog co-owner Sean Watterson would be consulting with the Fund for Our Economic Future on COVID-related restaurant and hospitality industry recovery efforts didn’t come out of the blue.
In fact, he has had a running start, a smooth transition from one ambitious problem-solving role to another.
Watterson had been working in a similar, independent role for the National Independent Venue Association since COVID hit. The appointment to the full-time, year-long gig at the Fund for Our Economic Future comes at a fortuitous time. He’ll be working there as a senior consultant, responsible for identifying both short-term and long-term solutions to improve the hospitality industry’s ability to attract, retain and promote workers.
Staffing issues have become critical in the hospitality industry, with many restaurants being forced to shorten hours or close certain days of the week because of worker shortages. It will be Watterson’s job to study the issue and find ways to make restaurant work more attractive.
“The timing on this is really good,” Watterson said. “(Co-owner) Tony (Cross) has been running the Happy Dog … even though everybody sees my name. This is not going to impact Happy Dog at all, and it’s going to give me something to work on in the same way that I spent most of COVID working on the National Independent Venue Association stuff.”
Watterson was instrumental with that consortium of independent clubs and helped get the Save Our Stages legislation passed through the U.S. Congress. The bipartisan-backed bill established a grant program and critical financial help for an industry that was battered during the coronavirus pandemic.
Once the bill passed and was signed into law, Watterson helped guide a task force to make sure funds were getting to the right places. Now that the funds are disbursed, that work is ending as his current role is beginning.
The Fund for Our Economic Future is an avenue for philanthropic and civic leaders to explore what matters to a community and implement long-term, equitable economic changes through job creation.