Michigan restaurant industry still reeling from Covid closures, but clawing its way back

Michigan's restaurant industry was left reeling thanks to the pandemic and mandated shutdowns.  There have been some recent signs of recovery, but there is still a long way to go.

COVID-19 wreaked havoc with owners, employees, and millions of customers who were locked out of their favorite eatery.

The industry is still down 25,000 jobs from the 300,000 jobs it lost.

"At one point we are at 300,000 jobs down," said Justin Winston, with the Michigan Restaurant Association. "We are clawing our way back, but it is a different industry than it was before the pandemic."

Winston said that a big contributing factor to the 25,000 lost, is that workers have fled to other industries.

In addition to losing workers, many owners headed to the unemployment line as the beer and food stopped flowing for good as they shuttered their businesses.

"Over 2,000 restaurants closed and we are getting them back," Winston said. "We are optimistic about what we see. We are not quite back to where we were, but we are on that trajectory and more than halfway there."

The industry has lured more workers back by doubling their salaries and providing more training designed to keep them in this career. But many owners could not do that, as they closed again.

"If you were on the edge, that level of inflation that quickly came on put a lot out of business," Winston said.

The state reports it is still down 30,000 employees statewide from pre-pandemic times and 25,000 of those are in Winston's line of work.