Traverse City Restaurants Facing Hiring Challenges

Labor Day weekend is behind us and for some restaurants that means it’s now a season of “labor shortage.”

With many high school students back to school full-time, and many college students now away from home, it has created a hole that restaurants are eager to fill.  Meanwhile at least one Traverse City restaurant has closed and another is scaling back hours without enough staff.

Sydney Bramer says she and her co-workers at the Traverse City Ruby Tuesday were shocked when a representative from the corporate office showed up first thing in the morning – to announce the restaurant would be closing – immediately. “Yesterday we closed down permanently. Nobody here knew it was coming. It was kind of just something where corporate showed up yesterday and said ‘Yep we’re closing you down.’ There are some people that are very angry. Like me. It’s just out of the blue.”

Sydney doesn’t know why the restaurant closed, but says Ruby Tuesday was short-staffed. The company didn’t respond to our request for comment.  She hears optimism about restaurants that are hiring but is nervous about finding new work. “It’s like, ‘Everyone left for school, everywhere is going to be hiring.’ But I started looking back in July for things because I wanted to switch up positions and I needed something that paid a little bit better.”

One restaurant desperate for workers is Denny’s. Normally open 24-7, they’ve scaled back their hours. General Manager Steve Liddicoat says, “The plan right now is to get back, get Denny’s back to where it needs to be. We need to get back to 24 hours. Right now we’re at 7am to 3pm just because we don’t have enough employees.”

Under new ownership and new management, they want to have staff in place to get to full strength, but it’s been a challenge. “The hiring market, you know it’s been a little rough this summer. Trying to get a lot of employees in here but it’s hard to find people inside the workforce.”

Liddicoat says the door is open to applicants of all ages. “We have all ages applying right now. I know we can use anyone that is looking to work with an enthusiastic team and we’ll grow with you if you grow with us.”

As for Sydney and her co-workers, she says they got a severance, but for her it was less than a week’s pay.  “We lost all of our paid time off, we lost our jobs. And it’s like nobody knew until it came.”

But a mile down the road, Denny’s GM says, “Anybody that was working over there, you always have a home here.”

And there may be more need for labor at the KFC near downtown Traverse City. It closed suddenly in December. But now we’re learning it may reopen next month. We also reached out to KFC but the company didn’t respond to our request for comment.