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Local restaurants struggle to find employees

The lack of applications shut down the Rinaldi's Pizza on Fulton Street for good.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Like so many in the last year, another Grand Rapids favorite fell victim to the pandemic. Rinaldi's Pizza on Fulton Street closed its doors last week after 37 years in business.

"It was a very hard decision," said manager Rebekah Oberry. "It's been there so many years with so many loyal customers."

Rinaldi's condensed its Grand Rapids operation into the location on Plainfield Avenue.

"We were doing $2,500 a night there, but just one cook and one driver wasn't good enough," she said.

The lack of applications shut down the store for good. To stay open at the Plainfield location, staff members some days will have to work 10 to 12-hour shifts. Desperate for help, Oberry has to turn to other measures.

"I've actually been resorting to Facebook, you know, hey I've got a delivery gig if anyone's looking," she said.

And it isn't just Rinaldi's. Slows BBQ has struggled to properly staff its Grand Rapids location as well.

"Every restaurant is having this problem," said Slows co-founder Brian Perrone. "As we return to service and get back to full speed, we want to make sure we have a good team in place."

So in a year where so many have lost jobs, why aren't people actively turning out to fill these positions? Oberry thinks while many are still concerned for their health, others feel like they don't have to return to work.

"Unemployment rates are really high right now," said Oberry. "They're making more money than anyone is willing to pay them."

She said they'll find a way for the time being.

"We'll make it. We'll work something out," she said.

But she hopes help will come soon.

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