Survey: Staffing is still down, wages and menu prices are up at Michigan restaurants

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association released the results of a recent survey of the state of Michigan’s hospitality industry. 

Conducted in early May by the MRLA, nearly 150 restaurant and hotel operators responded to the survey. The data, released Monday, shows that the biggest problem seems to be lack of staff, in spite of owners’ attempts to raise wages. 

A little more than 80% of respondents said their business was not currently operating with adequate staffing to meet customer demand. Nearly all of survey responders, 99%, said they have increased wages over the past year. Up from an August survey, 40% of operators said they increased wages by more than 15%. 

A 'help wanted' sign hangs in the front window of the Bray's hamburger stand in Hazel Park on Thursday, June 10, 2021. As coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Michigan employers are struggling to find enough workers to remain open.

More than half of the responders said they offered other perks, such as flexible scheduling (72%) and bonuses (57%). 

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Because of the staffing shortage, 59% of restaurant and hotel operators said they had to cut operating hours or days due to lack of employees, but that figure shows improvement from August when nearly 80% of operators said they cut hours because of staffing issues. 

“While there is growing evidence that the worst is behind us, the data in this survey paint a clear picture that the hospitality industry continues to operate in a particularly challenging environment. Inflation, supply chain and an inadequate workforce combine to suppress profitability and imperil a much-needed comeback for Michigan’s hotels and restaurants,” said MRLA president and CEO Justin Winslow. “We believe a targeted campaign to educate, train and recruit a world-class hospitality workforce is needed to meet the unmet demands of our tourism-driven state and hope to partner with the governor and legislature to quickly achieve that goal.”

Of the 87% of restaurants that increased menu prices in the past 12 months, most raised them by 5-10%. Seventy-seven percent of survey responders said they experienced commodity inflation over the past year that was greater than 10%.

Twitter: @melodybaetens