The pandemic still poses a deadly threat to the restaurant industry

Most of us are all too familiar with the “Help Wanted” signs, reduced hours, and limited service at our favorite Michigan restaurants and hotels. These signs indicate that the hospitality industry is still trying to rebuild itself after widespread and prolonged restrictions robbed it of its very essence.

A year and a half after Michigan restaurants were ordered to close their dining rooms, and most indoor gatherings were banned and travel stopped, the decimated hospitality industry has shown signs promises of renewal. Consumer data clearly indicates that many of us have missed dining at our favorite restaurant, and the resurgence of leisure travel has been noticeable in our many coastal and resort towns this summer.

A recent statewide survey conducted by the MRLA, however, suggests that the re-emergence of COVID-19 – along with unprecedented labor shortages and significant inflationary pressures – has left the industry, in particularly its small independent operators, vulnerable and in need of federal and state aid. endure the difficult months ahead.

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Nearly 90% of restaurants and hotels say they operate with insufficient staff to meet consumer demand. More than 85% of full-service restaurants are reducing their hours of operation and 80% of hotels are limiting room inventory because they lack adequate staff to turn rooms over to new guests. And despite double-digit salary increases at restaurants and hotels in 2021 and unprecedented signing bonuses for many, workforce challenges remain paramount.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund has certainly helped struggling restaurants, but far fewer than half of qualified applicants received funding, leaving more than 5,000 Michigan restaurants dry. The hospitality industry has yet to have a chance to secure industry-specific funding, and the loss of more than $1 billion in revenue last year means many Michigan hotels remain significantly in limbo. delay in loan repayments to the bank.

A recent National Restaurant Association consumer survey shows 19% of adults have again stopped eating indoors at restaurants, and 37% say they’ve ordered takeout or delivery instead of going out as a result. direct response to growing concerns about COVID-19. This doesn’t bode well for the changing season and rising Michigan Delta Variant.

To put it bluntly: to maintain a level of profitability during this tenuous transition period and to avoid another round of job-killing and dream-crushing shutdowns, the industry needs its elected leaders in Michigan and Washington D.C. to finish the job and provide much-needed bridge capital to help them weather the storm.

The existential challenges for the hospitality industry are not yet behind it, which is why it’s so important for Congress to pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act and pass a targeted series of grants from the Relief Fund for essential restaurants for small restaurants that need it most.

In Michigan, it is high time for the governor and legislature to take ownership of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed into law by President Biden in March. ARPA has allocated $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments to address the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of this amount, Michigan receives $10.1 billion, with $5.7 billion going to the state and $4.4 billion distributed to several cities and counties. ARPA very clearly states that 25% of these funds must be dedicated to the relief efforts of the hospitality industry.

The intent of Congress and President Biden is unequivocal: ARPA recognized that the hospitality industry has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and specifically crafted the bill to target state and local relief to devastated professionals. travel, tourism and hospitality.

This is a generational opportunity for the State of Michigan and its many large municipalities to mitigate the economic losses suffered by the pandemic in the hospitality and tourism industries. As the state’s second largest private employer, accounting for nearly 1 in 8 jobs and nearly 10% of the state’s total economic output, Michigan’s success is inextricably tied to the success of our hospitality and tourism.

The MRLA provided elected leaders with a public policy roadmap to restore Michigan’s hospitality industry through the provision of thoughtful immediate relief, promoting a safe environment for Michiganders to dine and travel and how to invest strategically in the development, recruitment and retention of the hotel workforce.

Michigan’s hospitality industry is the industry of opportunity and has been the first to step up for its communities when they were in need. It is time for our elected leaders to do the same.

Justin Winslow is president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA), which represents more than 5,000 restaurants and lodging establishments in Michigan. . For more information, visit and

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Cecil N. Messick