Survey: Hospitality Industry ‘In Turmoil,’ Looks to 2021 for Recovery

Many Michigan restaurants and hotels say they were happy to see the end of 2020, easily one of the most challenging years in the industry given the quarantines, shutdowns and other coronavirus-related issues directly tied to the pandemic.

A survey released through the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) called the state’s collective hospitality businesses, which includes restaurants, hotels and the like, “an industry in turmoil and on the brink of irreconcilable damage.”

“It is fundamentally clear that the pandemic is decimating the hospitality industry in this state to a degree never seen or even imagined,” Justin Winslow, President & CEO of the MRLA, said in a statement accompanying the survey data. “While it will take several years and a stable economy to reclaim the size, impact and opportunities produced by this industry, we have not yet reached the bottom.”

The restaurant part of the survey included 6,000 respondents nationally, including 175 from Michigan. The hotel industry survey included more than 1,200 participants, including “many from Michigan,” the MRLA said in its release.

The survey found that 5,600, or 33%, of Michigan restaurant operators say it is unlikely they will still be in business in six months. Nearly 90% of Michigan restaurant operators expect their sales to decrease during the next three months and 63% expect their staffing levels to decrease over the same period.

The survey also showed that 48% of Michigan restaurant operators say they are considering temporarily closing their restaurant until the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

Two-thirds of hotels (approximately 850 in Michigan) report they will only be able to last six more months at current revenue and occupancy levels without any additional relief. More than half or 52% of hotel owners said they are in danger of foreclosure. Finally, 63% of hotels have less than half of their typical staff working full time.

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In Birmingham, Hazel, Ravines and Downtown co-owners Beth Hussey and Executive Chef Emmele Herrold never expected their second year of business to include a worldwide pandemic. But they have worked to boost communication with their staff and patrons during this past 10 months and they are hopeful as they look into 2021.

This year, Hussey and Herrold have revamped their menu to suit new restrictions and boost “comfort food” offerings, created contact-free Curbside Carryout and created the restaurant’s local delivery service. They also a Hazel’s Holiday Merry & Bright menu so customers can create custom holiday meals from Christmas Eve through dinner on Christmas Day.

Zoom holidays
Herrold and Hussey have thought of everything from Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres to Christmas morning brunch and a lavish holiday dinner. They prepared everything from Peel & Eat Shrimp to easy-to-assemble and impressive Charcuterie Kits. For the first time, shuck-your-own Oyster packages came complete with an oyster knife and easy, illustrated instructions for beginners.

“We’ll even offer in-person, socially-distant shucking lessons at the restaurant,” Hussey said.

The make-ahead meals are great for customers and also allow the restaurant to give its remaining staff some time off during the holidays, Hussey added. She’s even looking forward to doing some cooking at home – something chefs rarely do because they typically do not have food in their own refrigerators most of the time, she said.

“We’ve been pivoting – a lot,” Hussey said. “We’ve been listening to what people are saying and we’re constantly talking to one another, so that’s helped.”

Restaurants across Metro Detroit and Michigan like Hazel Ravines are working in new and different ways to stay open during this challenging time. Eating inside a restaurant was restricted by the Michigan Health and Human Services Department through Dec. 8 and extended through Jan. 15.

Restaurant and bar owners from around the state also were among the thousands of small businesses that applied for the 650 available Pure Michigan Small Business Relief grants. The application was immediately flooded with requests.

Hotel challenges
A recent national survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows that nearly two-thirds (69%) of Americans will not travel for Christmas, according to a media statement released Wednesday by the AHLA.

With a new surge in COVID-19 cases, the CDC recommending that Americans do not travel over the holiday season and new stay-at-home orders in place in states across the country, the holiday season compounded the challenges already facing the hotel industry during this public health crisis.

“We understand the importance of following CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support the government’s actions. However, with the dramatic decline in travel, hotels will face a harsh winter through no fault of our own. The hotel industry needs aid to survive until travel demand returns. Given this current environment, Congress cannot nor should not contemplate recess until a relief bill is passed now,” said Chip Rogers, President and CEO of AHLA.