Ever since lockdown restrictions were eased, Michigan’s restaurants have had trouble getting employees to return to work. With more than 4 million residents statewide fully vaccinated against COVID-19, an uptick in demand is putting additional strain on the food service industry.
As a result, many restaurants are offering reduced hours and in some cases not opening on certain days.
“There just hasn’t been that same opportunity to make that same level of money.” –Justin Winslow, Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association
Justin Winslow is President and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. He says many in the food service industry have found new careers during the pandemic.
“You can think of a server who once made really great money in this industry,” says Winslow, “but while the industry has been at reduced capacity there just hasn’t been that same opportunity to make that same level of money.”
While the supplemental federal unemployment benefits could be discouraging some from returning to the dining workforce, Winslow says he does not believe it’s the largest factor. He says providing more child care opportunities could be one way to bolster employment.
“I think about the restaurant industry,” says Winslow, “it is disproportionately female. And the female workforce has dealt with children at home more than anyone else … which means in some sense that has impacted this industry more than anyone else.”
Winslow says longer school hours could also lead to more work opportunities for parents.
Listen: Justin Winslow of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association discusses the food service industry’s staffing challenges.