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Michigan restaurants are struggling to find employees

Kiril Strax

Michigan’s unemployment rate is below five percent.

That’s good news for the state overall, but it’s having an unexpected impact on restaurants who say they are struggling to attract employees.

A new survey from the Michigan Restaurant Association, released Wednesday, says a majority of restaurants say they are understaffed.

Justin Winslow is the President and CEO of the Association. He said low unemployment has made it hard to find workers to fill open positions.

“It’s just a fact that there is massive competition across all industries for a limited labor pool. The restaurant industry is not immune to that, they are feeling it as well.”

Winslow said to help attract more workers restaurants are raising wages. But those tighter profit margins are worrisome to restaurant owners.

“This is an industry that doesn’t adjust as well because of the thin profit margins that exist in this industry. On average most restuarants profit about 5% before taxes so there a little more subject from even slight changes.”

Winslow said restaurants are having to change their model in order to handle smaller staff sizes.

“What we’re seeing more than anything else are respondents saying we’re tweaking, we’re adjusting our menu to deal with the fact that we have less labor than we’d like to have to complete it. So that’s either a shorter, simplified menu, and a lot of times those dishes that are a little more complex that take a little more work are the first to go.”

Winslow said especially at chains he sees a trend towards automation to help handle a smaller workforce.