KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As many restaurants struggle to fill jobs, another industry is seeing former food service employees line up to work for them – and they're shifting from cooking on pots in a restaurant to making pot edibles.
"I think the pandemic has really made a lot of people stop, slow down, think about what they want to do with their life," Lathrop said.
Clovr, a cannabis-infused product manufacturer, has hired several workers who previously were laid off or wanted a career change from the restaurant industry.
"I worked in the restaurant industry as a manager, managing a restaurant," Chantel Lathrop said. "We did close because of COVID-19, so that kind of put me in a position of saying, 'You know, with that what do I want to do now?'"
Lathrop thrives in the kitchen, so her skills transitioned well to working in the gummy kitchen at Clovr.
"Making the flavors, measuring everything out properly so that way we're really paying attention to our dosing because that is our top priority," Lathrop said.
Other workers 41 Action News spoke with said the industry was attractive to venture into as Missouri's medical marijuana industry continues to grow.
"When this opportunity came, I came running," Clovr employee Shane Hallock said.
Jordan Gibson, who helps make drinks at Clovr, had similar thoughts.
"It's a booming industry with growth and opportunity," Gibson said. "So it's just something that I'm interested in."
They're seeing a shift in how their former co-workers view their careers.
"I'm seeing a lot of cooks, cocktail servers a lot of people from the restaurant industry coming here, and I think it's a quality-of-life issue and just not working so much for as little," Hallock said.
Clovr employee Will Findley said several friends also have left the hospitality industry.
"We talk a lot about the improved quality of life since we've left the restaurant industry," Findley said.
Bill Teel, of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, told 41 Action News while there's pressure to raise wages, it's not all that easy.
"If restaurants have to pay more, then prices are going to go up," Teel said. "They're going to have to charge customers more and that's just how supply and demand works. Restaurant have got to make a profit or they won't stay in business."
Teel said the potential to move up in the restaurant industry is unmatched elsewhere.
"The restaurant industry really is an industry of opportunity," he said, "and more than any other industry, it offers people a chance to start at the bottom and work their way all the way up to management, ownership."
It's a business recipe some former restaurant workers want to change.
"Give them better benefits, give them better wages, make sure that their hours are fitting within whatever extracurricular or educational needs that they have going on with their life," Lathrop said.
These lives have changed forever during the pandemic and they're not looking back.
"This sort of camaraderie feels really reinvigorating to a lot of us," Findley said.
Similarly, Lathrop continues to look ahead in a new career.
"I'm just excited for what the future holds with it and for anybody who comes into this industry who has a passion where they can utilize that," Lathrop said.
To learn more about Missouri's medical marijuana industry, visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services website.