MichMash: Frankenmuth is thriving, against the odds

In this episode, Bridge Michigan’s Paula Gardner joins Cheyna Roth to discuss the unique success of Frankenmuth’s restaurant industry.

Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan (2015).

Subscribe to MichMash on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

In this episode:

  • Frankenmuth has defied expectations in their service industry through community effort and investments in worker retention.
  • As the affordable housing crisis in Michigan continues to spread North, rent rates are increasing as well. Find out what is driving this push.
  • Paula Gardner talks with Cheyna Roth about the ripple effects of rising housing costs coupled with stagnating wages.

Alongside their open sign, hours and health code rating, many restaurants around Michigan and the country have added another posting: help wanted. While the restaurant industry has been rebounding in major cities, smaller towns have had more difficulty bouncing back. Frankenmuth, MI is an exception.

“We know that certain cities like Ann Arbor, or Grand Rapids, or Traverse City, they’re pulling in people, and they are making money, and they are struggling with certain things like staffing,” said guest Paula Gardner of Bridge Michigan. “But Frankenmuth as a small town in Michigan is actually doing the same thing.”

One thing that could account for Frankenmuth’s unusual success is the strong sense of community that exists in the town.

“Everybody I talked to talked about how united they were from the beginning,” Gardner said. “They put on a united front, and just welcomed people back, and people who wanted to get out, who wanted to relive the fun times in Frankenmuth, they found ways to do that.”

The Frankenmuth community’s unity helped them pull together and create some unique solutions to help businesses stay afloat. Businesses in the area have also heavily invested in worker retention, raising wages and offering benefits not often seen in the service industry.

“They have gone for some bonus things (like) paying for tuition, I think they were ahead of the curve in trying to raise wages,” said Gardner. “They have been willing to invest in the people that they have. They don’t want their people to leave, they want them to stay for a very long time.”

This community outreach has made an impact in the businesses central to Frankenmuth’s tourist and service industries.

“In that zip code, they actually have 9 more restaurants than they did in 2019. So that’s a sight that, while we are all waiting for restaurants to fold, this place has not fulfilled that. They are actually doing better than we all thought would happen in that industry.”

Related Posts:

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »