Restaurateur Jeff Lobdell’s expanding enterprise includes Bagel Beanery, Beltline Bar, Sundance Grill, Grand Coney, The Omelette Shoppe, Rockwell Republic and more across West Michigan and the Traverse City area. While Lobdell remains optimistic for the future of his growing company, which this year acquired Pete’s Grill & Tavern and the 84th Street Market in Byron Center, he said the restaurant industry needs to adapt to new challenges from technology and a shortage of service workers.
“I see the economy continuing to grow in 2018, especially here in West Michigan. Through the efforts of our great cities and the entire state of Michigan promoting the restaurants and hospitality industry in general through campaigns like Beer City USA, Pure Michigan, etc. — as well as through word of mouth and social media about all we have to offer — the demand has never been greater. Challenges do, however, exist. There is a shortage of hospitality and service-related industry workers, which puts pressure on businesses to deliver the experiences consumers have come to expect. There is a deterrent on opening new locations if you fear you will struggle to assemble the human resources needed to execute the level of production and service required to satisfy your guests. Another big factor that is influencing the industry is technology. Many industries and companies have felt the strain of competitive forces with the advances in technology despite the robust economy. Retail giants are closing their doors due to more and more consumers shopping online. Transportation mainstays like taxi cabs have been clobbered with the use of Uber, Lyft and Steadyfare. The hospitality industry is also starting to feel some of these effects. Although I’m certain people will always need to eat and want to dine out, more and more are using take out/delivery and doing so via the internet. Restaurant owners and operators like myself will need to continue to explore ways to use technology to stay relevant and meet the needs of our guests in this ever-changing environment.”