Michigan restaurants still hurting from worker shortage, delta variant

LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) – Michigan restaurants aren’t out of financial danger yet, according to new survey results.

Restaurants across the country took part in a national survey in early September and the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association released results from the state on Monday.

Results show the rebound in business for Michigan restaurants is slowing this fall, which operators blame on the ongoing worker shortage and concerns over rising COVID-19 delta variant case rates. Sales at a majority of restaurants haven’t fully recovered from the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we approach Michigan’s fall and winter seasons and see consumer trends move away from in-person dining due to colder weather outdoors and concerns about the delta variant, the recoil impact to the restaurant industry will be harsh, swift and very concerning,” said Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President and CEO Justin Winslow.

Nearly a quarter of restaurants reported lower sales in August compared to a year ago and 61% say their volume is down compared to August 2019. Profitability is down for nearly half of Michigan restaurants over the summer months compared to the spring.

Nearly 60% of restaurants reported fewer customers for indoor dining in recent weeks, which they attributed to rising numbers of COVID-19 delta variant cases in Michigan. Over 40% of restaurant operators say their business conditions are worse this fall compared to the summer while only 15% say conditions have improved.

“Less than one in three operators are doing better than they were pre-pandemic with business conditions being worse now than they were three months ago,” Winslow said. “These trend lines tell us that we are moving away from a desperately-needed resurgence as we approach the winter season.”

To make matters worse, 87% of restaurants say they still don’t have enough employees to meet customer demand and 54% of them say they need to hire 20% more workers right away. Food and labor costs are eating up a larger portion of restaurants’ revenue, as well.

“It’s important to remember as we return back to our offices, our family gatherings and other business-as-usual settings that the impact of this virus and lack of state and federal support are still threatening the viability of our community restaurants,” Winslow said.  

Copyright 2021 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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