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Food Vendor Laying Off 229 Workers At Kansas City International Airport

081420_Starbucks Closed at KCI.jpg_vickie newton
Vickie Newton
A closed Starbucks store at Kansas City International Airport.

Among the affected workers are 64 baristas at Starbucks concessions, 61 bartenders and servers, 20 cooks, 30 cashiers and snack bar attendants, and 26 supervisors.

HMSHost, which operates food concessions at Kansas City International Airport, is laying off 229 employees due to “a drastic decline in business” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which operates airport concessions around the world, said in a labor law notice that it had seen an unprecedented decline in airport and highway traffic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the travel and restaurant industries and, unfortunately, HMSHost sits at the crossroads of both,” the notice stated. “Never in the history of aviation and the hospitality industry, have we experienced such catastrophic customer traffic declines.”

HMSHost is a wholly owned subsidiary of Autogrill S.p.A., an Italian conglomerate, and has annual sales of $3.5 billion. The company has operations in 120 airports around the globe and runs more than 80 highway travel plazas in the United States.

Simultaneously with its KCI announcement, the company said it is also laying off 353 employees at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.

HMSHost began furloughing employees at both airports in March. It said that unless the furloughed employees are recalled by October 15, they will be permanently laid off.

Among the affected workers at KCI are 64 baristas at Starbucks concessions, 61 bartenders and servers, 20 cooks, 30 cashiers and snack bar attendants, and 26 supervisors, according to the WARN Act letter.

Most of the workers are members of Unite Here Local 74 based in Bridgeton, Missouri. Union officials did not return a call seeking comment.

A spokesperson for HMSHost said the pandemic had “devastated the travel restaurant industry in which HMSHost operates.”

“When travel initially collapsed, HMSHost furloughed many corporate and front-line associates,” the spokesperson said. “For several months, we continued providing our associates with benefits, and allowed them to use all available paid time off, including vacation, as well as sick and flex time which would not otherwise have been available if they had been laid-off. We had anticipated being able to return our associates to work as business returned. However, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases nationally has stalled passenger traffic, and there is no short-term end in sight to the economic crisis.”

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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