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Restaurants Pivot to Survive Pandemic’s Economic Effects

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.”

Mark Taylor braced for winter and knew that new restrictions would come. The owner of Fidler’s on the Grand in Lansing said his restaurant survived because of his regular customers.

“If it wasn’t for the kindness and generosity of our customers allowing us to make them a meal and patronizing us during this most difficult time … I don’t think many of us would make it,” Taylor said.

After the first week of the emergency, he saw it was a matter of how hard a person was willing to go to survive.

“Then it was a matter of attitude and what we were going to do. Because attitude … is more than half the battle,” he said. “Then it’s just a matter of ensuring you are doing what is necessary and being flexible enough to go ahead and make a change midstream.”

Winslow said that 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.”