‘People are eager to get out’: Bed & breakfast sees uptick in business but staffing an issue industry-wide

MRLA conducts survey that says 88 percent of restaurants and hotels are operating with inadequate staff numbers.
Posted at 12:30 PM, Aug 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-13 12:30:17-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Ken and Ruth Andrus have been running the Leonard at Logan House in Heritage Hill for over three years and they’ve loved every minute of it.

“You get to meet amazing people from all over and hear their stories,” Ruth said during an interview on Thursday. “You get to just care for them and give them a smile for that day.”

Ken, who was standing next to her, agreed that meeting new people was the best part. He said they’ve developed friendships in different states because of the bed and breakfast, which boasts of eight bedrooms, a dining room, living room, den, kitchen, and patio.

However, over the last 17 months, it hasn’t always been busy.

“When everything all struck and hit, we had to lay off all of our staff,” Ruth recalled. “And then of course no one was coming and we ended up doing everything.”

The cooking, cleaning, administrative work, the Andruses, and their daughter did it all by themselves.

“There were some scary times like even this spring,” Ruth said. “It’s like, 'OK, are we going to make it? Aren’t we going to make it?' I don’t know, it was really touching and go there, but you keep on holding on with every hope.”

However, as soon as mask mandates were lifted in late June, they said that’s when things really started to change. And, they were able to hire the cleaning crew back.

Ken said he believes vaccinations have helped to turn the tide.

“It resulted in a huge influx of guests and we’ve actually been doing really quite well this summer since that time,” he said. “So we’re very, very thankful.”

And even though the Andruses are experiencing an upswing, not every business in the hospitality industry is.

“Ninety percent essentially of restaurants and hotels are not able to meet demand because they don’t have enough staff to do so. That’s imperiling the industry,” said Justin Winslow, head of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. “When you’re talking about more than four in five restaurants and hotels either shutting off rooms because they can’t flip them in time because they don’t have the staff to, or restaurants closing for lunch or not opening on Sunday or maybe even a Monday, you realize that this industry is not quite where it needs to be, post pandemic."

READ MORE: 9 out of 10 Michigan restaurants operating with inadequate staffing

Winslow said the MRLA, which works with thousands of businesses in the state, conducted its own survey to discover just how bad the staffing shortage is. 300+ businesses responded and it revealed that 88 percent were operating with shorter staffs, even though many are doing everything they can to woo workers back.

“Ninety-seven percent of restaurants and hotels have increased wages in 2021 and more than half of them are increasing them by more than 10 percent,” Winslow said during a Zoom interview. “That is more than two and a half times the economy-wide increase in wages.”

Winslow said that's staggering.

The Andruses said they’re grateful to see things returning to normal even if it’s at a slow pace.

“This year things are starting to pick up. It started to pick up more in May. June was better. July was better,” Ruth said. “You can tell that people are eager to get out, anxious to get out, excited to get out, and wanting to travel, so. And, so we have been thankful, so thankful for that.”

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