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Restaurants struggle to find workers as indoor capacity increases

The CEO of Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! says approximately 1,500 open jobs were added this month in Marquette, Delta, and Houghton Counties.
Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 5:06 PM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - As Michigan restaurants expand to 50% capacity on Friday, many are struggling to find employees to keep up with the increase in customers.

Jeffrey Erickson, owner of Jeffrey’s Restaurant in Marquette, says job applications have been coming in very slowly.

“If you actually need to hire somebody just because you have an opening but without an existing person, it’s harder and harder to get a quality person to come in,” said Erickson.

According to Upper Peninsula Michigan Works!, more than 1,000 jobs were unfilled in the U.P. in September of 2020. Today, CEO Bill Raymond says that number has grown.

“If I just look at Marquette, Delta, and Houghton Counties, there are probably 1,500 open jobs in the last month just in those three counties,” Raymond explained.

He says one cause appears to be a greater desire for skilled trade positions.

“They may see retail or a restaurant job as a stepping stone to get some experience, but then when they can get something with a little more of a skilled trade behind it and the pay is better, that puts pressure on restaurants to find the type of help they need,” said Raymond.

Raymond says health concerns also appear to be a factor when it comes to food service jobs.

“There’s been some indication that people have been a little reluctant because of the pandemic and that it’s a public-facing position,” Raymond said. “As the numbers go down in Michigan and hopefully we’re getting beyond the worst of things, people will feel more comfortable working in that type of environment.”

For now, Erickson says he’s just glad to have a small group he can count on until more positions are filled.

“They’re loyal to me, I’m loyal to them, and they came back now,” said Erickson. “It’s getting better, but it’s a tough, tough situation.”

Downtown pub and grill, Stucko’s, is experiencing a similar situation.

Although the expanded capacity limit only adds two more tables to the restaurant’s indoor service, owner Sonia Stucko says curbside business is booming. She says Stucko’s plans to open the patio sometime this month as well.

Stucko says she is seeking more workers for her team, particularly kitchen staff and bartenders.

Upper Peninsula Michigan Works! offers employment assistance through U.P. Jobs Now! The service matches employers with qualified job seekers. For more information on U.P. Jobs Now!, click here.

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