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Restaurants still struggling 18 months into pandemic

The struggle continues for restaurant workers as the pandemic wanes on.
The struggle continues for restaurant workers as the pandemic wanes on.(WJRT)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 3:53 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The struggle continues for restaurant workers as the pandemic wanes on.

Business owners made that known during a meeting of the House Tourism and Senate Small Business committees Wednesday.

One of the biggest problems is they can’t find workers.

“We’re starting cooks between $17 and $20 an hour. We have a 401K plan with a 4% company match. We have health insurance. We offer life insurance. We have time off. We still can’t fill our positions,” said Andy French, owner of Aubree’s Pizza.

The people they do have are working long hours and dealing with customers who haven’t been very patient. Plus, supply chain issues are causing price increases on things like eggs, bacon and fry oil.

“These common, everyday items are just raising prices, and now business owners are forced to choose. Do I raise prices and risk losing the few customers I have or do I keep the few customers I have happy but essentially lose money with every plate that goes out the door?” said John McNamara with the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Some companies are still keeping their employees remote meaning there are fewer people walking around for lunch.

“You’re seeing fewer and fewer that open. You’ve seen a few close already and some are only open a few days a week. So there’s really only a few great options for lunch in downtown Lansing right now, but hopefully as more people get back to work, we’ll see more place open up again,” said McNamara.

The state has federal money from the American Rescue Plan to give out to businesses, but legislators have not yet voted to distribute it.

“Hopefully we can partner with the legislature and get that money out by the end of the year at the absolute latest,” said McNamara.

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