When COVID-19 prompted a ban on dine-in service for Michigan restaurants in March, restaurateurs found themselves facing a crisis.
Since then, 2,000 restaurants are estimated to have permanently closed, according to Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association.
“This is roughly 12% of Michigan’s total restaurant locations,” Winslow said in October. “We also estimate that nearly 4,000 locations — 23% — in Michigan will face permanent closures if restrictions don’t change as colder months approach.”
Lasko Laskaj, owner of Lasko’s Restaurant on Wilder Road in Bay City, said he managed to stay afloat during the lockdown by pivoting to offer only to-go food.
“We survived on carryout orders only,” Laskaj said. “We struggled but we did it. Now, the restaurant has had to re-pivot with the latest restrictions.”
Another motivation for remaining open during the pandemic was supporting his employees.
“I have a lot of employees and did not want to leave them without a job,” he explained. “I did it because of the workers. We got no help from the government.”
Winslow said that sort of pivot has been made by other restaurants.
“Michigan’s hospitality industry has once again proved how innovative and adaptable our state’s second-largest employer truly is,” Winslow said. “As winter approaches in Michigan, the MRLA is working to secure statewide opportunities for subsidizing some of the cost associated with winterizing outdoor spaces.
“Ghost kitchens have also proved to be a successful option for restaurants during a time with significant increase to delivery sales,” he added, noting a webinar about ghost kitchens may be found on the MRLA website.