restaurant server carrying water

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The owner of a restaurant in Saginaw, Michigan is taking almost half of her staff on a trip to Puerto Rico to show appreciation amid the labor shortage.

Theresa Miller, who owns Coty’s Landing, in Saginaw, Michigan told MLive that she’s taking 18 of the restaurant’s longest-serving employees on the free trip in January as “a little extra thank you.” The restaurant has more than 40 employees in total, she said.

“I thought it would be a nice little give-back,” Miller told the publication. Some of her employees cried when she told them about the trip, she added.

Restaurant staff already faced stressful working conditions which were compounded by both the pandemic and the labor shortage. Workers have had to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks and altercations with customers who refuse to wear masks or follow social-distancing policies.

This, coupled with generally low pay and poor benefits across the industry, has led to a huge labor shortage, with record numbers of restaurant workers quitting their jobs. It has made work in the industry even harder, with remaining staff being left overworked and burnt out, and customers complaining about slower service.

Restaurants have adapted to their staffing shortages by cutting their hours, closing their dining rooms, and raising prices. They’ve also been putting up wages or offering perks like sign-on and retention bonuses, healthcare benefits, and free food to try keep staffing levels up.

“I try and do regular bonuses and especially Christmas bonuses and all that good stuff when I can, but nothing like this on this scale,” Miller told MLive, speaking about the Puerto Rico trip. “It’s well-deserved. They do a good job. They treat this place like it’s their own.”

Miller, who is closing the restaurant for a week while staff are away, bought Cody’s Landing in 2015. She said that nearly half of her staff have worked there for at least three years, including many who have worked there for at least five years.

“I have a lot of respect for them and the work they do every day,” Miller said. “I just want to show them it doesn’t go unnoticed.”

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