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Mid-MI restaurants still plagued by staffing shortages, menu problems

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 10:41 PM EDT
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BAY CITY, Mich. (WJRT) (6/18/2021)--It was a mad scramble for businesses Friday, just a days before Michigan nixes nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions and reinstates full capacity service.

A labor shortage has made for a bittersweet return to normalcy for many restaurants and bars, with an emphasis on bitter in the northern parts of the viewing area. ABC12 found a number of local restaurants which said getting back to 100-percent might have to wait a while.

“It’s very challenging.”

Bruce Berger has to go a long way down the family tree to find a precedent for the challenges that have his hands full these days.

“I’m operating six days a week instead of seven,” he explained. “I’m not serving breakfast early because I don’t have the staff to do that and closing earlier during the week.”

Increasingly feeling the strain of too few helping hands. And with capacity limits on their way out in days, the Berger’s Family Restaurant chief told ABC12 he didn’t know how or when his storied Bay City family business would return to 100-percent capacity.

Even the menu, seamlessly melding from that classic comfort into a brand new source of anxiety.

“We can do our menu but getting product at times is expensive, it’s changing pricing… you run out of stock, you run out of product,” Berger related.

This reporter called every restaurant that came up in a quick Google search. A handful revealed they were fully staffed at the time of publication. Others, reeling because of the gaping holes in their rosters and bracing for a chaotic Father’s Day weekend.

“We’re reopened fully and trying to be fully staffed and ready.”

Jen Dore handles marketing for the North Point on Huron. They just rebuilt the place from the ground up after a fire leveled the building. Instead of turning the page from that low point, pandemic roadblocks sent the Kawkawlin grill down yet another detour.

“We’re tired, right? We’re doing what we can,” she said. “We’re seeking and we’re interviewing and we’re reaching out.”

Jen explains North Point’s since rolled out a bonus program – five bucks more an hour – to reward the folks who have stuck with them and draw out new hires.

“While we’d love to be open 100-percent and open at full capacity, at this time it’s been an extreme challenge,” Dore related.

Attempts at outreach still leave Bruce with at least eight spots left to fill. Whatever normal looks like these days, he said he was eager to get back to it.

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