Food industry experiences difficulty hiring employees because of COVID-19 shutdowns

Posted at 4:37 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 17:40:06-04

PORTAGE, Mich. — As restaurants across the state are reopening, some are running into the latest hurdle of the pandemic, finding employees to hire.

Turbo Chicken has only been open for six months, and just like other restaurants in the area, they're having a hard time hiring new employees.

The owner said it's challenging to get people in the door, not to eat, but for an interview.

"We’re running real lean right now," said Mark Nieuwenhuis, the owner of Turbo Chicken.

Turbo Chicken in Portage opened its doors about six months ago.

While support from the community has been great, the restaurant in feeling the effects of COVID in a different way, hiring employees.

"It has been somewhat of a problem. We have our employees that we started with and good employee retention as well. It is just trying to build the business and get where we need to be with the employees," said Nieuwenhuis.

On March 15, Turbo Chicken stayed closed because of lack employees that day. They're normally open 7 days a week.

A senior business consultant with the Michigan Small Business Development Center of Western Michigan University said shutdown has made it harder on a lot of restaurants when it comes to employees.

"Many people who were in the food service industry have found other jobs in other professions that seem to be a little more stable than the restaurant industry," said John Schmitt, a senior business consultant with the Michigan Small Business Development Center of Western Michigan University.

In addition, unemployment compensation has also played a small part, but even more than that is personal safety and comfort.

"When you're in the food service business, you know, you come face-to-face with people that don't wear masks, and you're not really considered essential worker, but you are in a position, more vulnerability," said Schmitt.

"We have good employ retention once we do get them in the door. They tend to stay for a long time, a lot more than most restaurants because it is usually high turnover," said Nieuwenhuis.

Turbo Chicken is currently hiring four positions, both part-time and full time.

Applicants must be 15 with a work permit or 16 and older. Turbo Chicken is asking anyone interested in applying to apply through their Facebook page.