Survey: 9 in 10 Michigan restaurants understaffed after COVID-19 restrictions lifted

A survey conducted after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in Michigan found that nine in 10 Michigan restaurants have inadequate staffing to meet customer demand.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association's survey, more than 85% of full-service restaurants have closed early or for a specific time during the day because of staffing issues.

The survey conducted between Aug. 3-6 included 320 responses from across the state that represented about 1,000 locations, the association said.

More than four out of five hospitality industry survey respondents are operating at least 10% below adequate staffing levels and 29% are operating more than 30 percent below staffing levels needed to meet demand.

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Additionally, the survey showed that nearly every hotel, 97%, is understaffed and 81% of hotels are limiting room inventory because they do not have enough workers to clean the rooms between guests.

According to the survey, 95% of restaurant and hotel respondents have increased wages this year, with half increasing them by more than 10%. Also, more than 70% have increased schedule flexibility to appeal to prospective employees, and half have offered financial incentives.

"Restaurant and hotel operators are trying to meet consumer demand that exceeds 2019 with 100,000 fewer workers and skyrocketing labor and commodity prices. Workers are exhausted and profit margins are thin for many despite the resurgent demand," said Justin Winslow, the president and CEO of the Restaurant & Lodging Association.

Respondents were also asked how they felt about mask mandates – 28% said they support recent CDC guidelines recommending masks indoors because it will "create a safer and more stable environment in which to operate" while 72 percent opposed because it will "reignite an environment of fear that will negatively impact my business."

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The survey also found that 64% of respondents believe Congress should enact additional targeted relief for the hospitality industry.

"As we pivot to an uncertain turn of the season fraught with the possibility of persistent COVID-19 challenges, an inadequate workforce, and rampant inflationary pressures, it is important to remember that most restaurants and hotels did not receive federal or state aid during the darkest days of the pandemic," Winslow said. "The existential challenges for the hospitality industry are not yet behind it, which is why it is so important for the Michigan legislature and Gov. Whitmer to come together on a deal in September that prioritizes the hospitality industry in yet-to-be-appropriated federal relief dollars. And why Congress should see fit to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act and secure a second round of funding for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund."