TAMPA, Fla. — For more than four years, Roselyn Palencia has been a cook at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, and she was just surprised with some life-changing news.
She and more than 1,000 hospitality employees got a big pay raise, some wages increasing more than 60%.
"I feel very emotional, very happy," she said. "It just really did something for me and my family."
Now entry-level employees will receive $8-11 above the state's current $10 per hour minimum wage. This is part of Hard Rock's plan to spend an additional $100 million on payroll to help employees with inflation.
"We just felt it was time to step up and take care of the staff that takes care of us," Seminole Hard Rock president Steve Bonner said.
This relieving news comes as hospitality employees across the state are struggling to adjust to the rising cost of everything.
"The amount of money that Hard Rock has raised their minimum wage up to $18, and it's going to be a lot of pressure on other hospitality organizations," UCF hospitality professor Kevin Murphy said.
But many locally owned hotels and restaurants aren’t able to compete with the kind of pay increases of an international gaming corporation, so they’ve come up with different ways to keep employees.
Shauna Ramsey has worked at the front desk of the Bilmar Beach Resort for 18 years.
"I love all of the customers and the people I work with," Ramsey said.
She said the benefits, flexibility and appreciation from managers are what has kept her there for so long.
"They make you feel appreciated," Ramsey said.
Bilmar Beach Resort general manager Clyde Smith said many locally owned hotels and restaurants struggled to find and keep employees post-pandemic, but it's getting much better now since employers have adjusted by raising wages, having better benefits and incentive programs.
"Things cost more, so people need to make more money. Also, I think employers have had to become more flexible," Smith said. "We try to do extra things to really show them, not just to tell them, that we appreciate them."