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Restaurants, Hospitality ‘Clawing’ Back from COVID-19 Losses

June 21, 2023

Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog e-newsletter

The hospitality industry in Michigan bore the brunt of losses from the COVID-19 shutdowns, but today restaurants are “clawing” their way back.

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association CEO Justin Winslow said the state still reports an overall job deficit of about 30,000 positions in all business sectors post-COVID and 25,000 of those are from his members.

“We are clawing our way back, but it’s a different industry than it was before the pandemic,” Winslow said.

He reported that more than 50% of the closed businesses have re-opened.

Those members, he reports, have to be nimble and many of them doubled salaries they were paying before to continue the “clawing” process.

“We are optimistic about what we see. We are not quite back to where we were, but we are on that trajectory,” Winslow said.

However, not everyone survived.

For those owners who could not afford to double their salary base, or on the edge of the level of inflation, were quickly put out of business, he said.

Winslow indicated that in addition to the higher wages, restaurants provided training and education for workers to convince them there is a career in the restaurant business.

He hoped the higher wages, along with a hospitality pipeline launched in March paid with funds from the Michigan Hospitality Foundation, would help to retain workers.

The problem is there is a tight labor force, as the unemployment rate sits at 3.8% for May and the workforce gap remains.

A statewide advertising campaign touts the $20 billion hospitality industry in Michigan and tries to get high school and college students to go into the ProStart, Hotel or Tourism Management field.

“This uplifting campaign will help raise awareness about the excellent and fulfilling opportunities in the hospitality industry and help steer young people toward job training programs that can give them a head start on their careers,” Winslow said.

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