Prepared, set, host: Hospitality industry welcoming 2021 despite challenges | Business

TRAVERSE CITY – Ready or not, here they come.

The unofficial start of the tourist season is less than two weeks away and the influx of more people eating, staying and shopping in the area requires more staff to serve, clean and wait for those additional customers.

While the “Help Wanted” signs for the hospitality industry dominate throughout the region and businesses large and small are still looking for seasonal and year-round help, the industry is prepared to accept what 2021 brings – especially shortly after the shortened and interrupted tourist season 2020.

“We’ll be ready,” said Matthew McClellan, director of human resources for the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. “It’s common to everyone in Northern Michigan, whether it’s the little corner shop or (bigger employers like) us.”

“Employers are as ready as possible,” said Northwest Michigan Works! Regional Director Lisa Schut, whose organization represents 10 counties in northern Michigan.

“They certainly want workers. Last year was kind of a gimme; Many employers laid off workers. This year the opposite is the case. You can’t get enough workers. As you drive down the street you will see signs saying “Help Wanted” everywhere. “

More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more nationally between May 27 and May 31, according to a release from AAA – The Auto Club Group. More than 1 million of those who travel in the five days that end on Memorial Day are Michigan, the press release said.

The 1.09 million Michigan travelers are a huge jump from the not quite 700,000 who traveled on Memorial Day weekend in 2020. The forecast for 2021 is lower than the 1.2 million citizens who were out on the 2019 holiday weekend.

“This summer will create a year of catching up as Americans anticipate the start of the season,” said Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel, in a press release. “Travel bookings with AAA – The Auto Club Group has grown significantly lately, creating the conditions for a busy weekend vacation and an exciting summer.”

And what would summer be without ice cream?

Melanie Porter said she is grateful for the 25-30 employees she has at two Wares Bros. Frosty Treat locations in Traverse City. While Porter said she could “use another five to ten employees.” But despite rising food costs and rising rents, the company will still smile one cone or cup at a time.

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” Porter said. “Or a chocolate milkshake.”

Secure construction

Prior to the pandemic, Acme’s Grand Traverse Resort & Spa employed around 540 people, McClellan said. That number increases to 750-800 during a typical summer.

The GT Resort and Spa had a peak of around 620 employees in 2020. Acme Township Resort peaked in late summer and early fall as people felt more comfortable after a spring and summer full of boundaries, McClellan said.

McClellan said the resort is “heading into the heat of the summer busy season” with a staff of approximately 560. He described the employment level as not too far below the pre-COVID level.

“We’ve been building steadily all along,” said McClellan. “We’ve seen a slow year-round increase in staff since the summer.”

“We are in a good position. We saw a lot more people willing to return to the work environment. In the coming season we will do very well in terms of staffing. “

The GT Resort will also get a boost from improved access to J-1 Visa staff. McClellan said the resort is using the program to supplement its workforce in the forefront of housekeeping, cooks, stewards, laundry and banqueting. Due to lockdowns in countries like Jamaica, the program reduced staff by a third to half in 2020. It will return to 95 percent of prepandemic levels in 2021.

But that does not mean that the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is no longer looking for staff this year or any other year.

“We only have 50 to 100 people a year, but based on the experience of the guests, you will never see that,” he said.

TC Food employs between 120 and 130 people in administration as well as at Bubba’s, Firefly, The Kitchen and Grandview Catering. TC Food President and co-owner Trish Wiltse said the company is nearing the season at around 130 and could hire more if more events were allowed.

“We stayed pretty close,” she said. “Catering is the big variable at the moment. Depending on the weddings, we could hire an additional 10 to 15 to 20 people for the catering staff.

“We have filled a few positions in the past two weeks. We’re still looking for a couple and we have several people coming back from college. “

Employers are still looking

McClellan said hospitality businesses across the region are looking for more help and will continue to do so.

“The market isn’t there,” he said. “There aren’t enough people to meet this need. This has been the case for years. “

“I’ll be ready for the summer,” said Porter, who opened the Wares Bros. location at 1409 W. South Airport Road and worked solo for the first part of the day on Tuesday.

Advertising in Northwest Michigan Works! The dashboard saw a total of 4,294 ads in April, up 15.9 percent from the previous month.

Munson Healthcare topped the list of top employers who posted open positions at Northwest Michigan Works last month with 504.

The next two listings were two resort properties owned by Boyne Resorts – Big Sky Resort in Montana (204) and Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire (180). Boyne Resort itself was fourth with 139 offers, followed by McLaren Healthcare with 108, closely followed by grocery chain SpartanNash (99).

Prestige Healthcare was also in the top dozen of employers, but the rest of the list spanned a variety of retail and resort locations.

The list of top occupations shows even more clearly how important it is to find employees in the hospitality industry.

Retail sales were the most advertised job at the Northwest Michigan Works! April dashboard displacing Registered Nurses by a margin of 183-181.

The other top professions posted on the dashboard are dominated by categories such as retail sales clerk supervisors (126), restaurant chefs (108), merchandisers and window dressers (90), customer representatives (86), and sales representatives (82).

Then there are three separate categories with 70 postings: combined preparation and service of food (including fast food), caretakers and cleaning staff (except housekeeping staff) and housekeeping staff.

“They are trying to attract workers for these vacancies,” said Schut. “If you’re looking for a job this summer, you can find a job this summer. Even now. “

For a more detailed look at the April Job Demand Dashboard, visit

Stay competitive

The hotel industry has responded to the need for labor in a variety of ways.

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa hosted a four-hour drive-through job fair in two separate sessions on April 29. McClellan said 10 people attended the event, which he saw as a success. An on-site job fair before the pandemic usually drew 25 or 30, but the April drive-through hiring event attracted more motivated candidates who were actively interested in the job.

Schut said many companies are and continue to offer sign-up and retention bonuses. Schut said some companies have relaxed experience and training requirements to attract workers, with an emphasis on “dependability and dependability”.

According to Wiltse, TC Food continues to offer sign-up and retention bonuses. The company also offers a shift meal, retirement plan, and pays a portion of the monthly medical benefits for its full-time employees required to keep restaurants open year round.

“We’re trying to pay it up all the time,” said Wiltse.

Of course, the best way to keep your hospitality staff is simple: Pay more.

Wiltse said back-of-the-house employees at TC Food are making about $ 3-4 more an hour than they were two to three years ago.

Schut said the bottom line is the best way to attract and land aid. It is also the best way to compare one job to another in the industry.

“Most employers aim for wages,” she said. “That is constant for the workers. It’s a way of being competitive. “

Wiltse said she spoke to other restaurant owners who report that some staff are hired and will not show up for the first day of training, or will skip scheduled interviews.

Various reasons are given for the unwillingness to work, including the lack of housing for workers. Others hesitate because of COVID-19 health concerns or customer complaints about safety protocols.

Then there are some who can just make more money out of unemployment than out of work.

“The elephant in the room is unemployment insurance,” said Schut. “People can count; People are smart. “

Places like Wares Bros. get into a different situation with the age of their workforce. Individuals under the age of 15 have legal work restrictions, which creates another wrinkle.

“This year tried to recruit,” said Porter. “We have a lot of young applicants, which is great because they can grow with you. But they can only work until 7 during the school year and 9 in the summer and we are now open until 9 and 10 in the summer. “

But even with these problems, the hotel industry is more than ready to get involved in the 2021 summer season.

Porter has the advantage of offering ice cream that we all scream for in warmer weather.

“I’ll be ready for the summer,” said Porter. “We’re here to make everyone happy. We will make it. “

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