GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Businesses around the Grand Rapids area are offering bonuses to combat an employee shortage. 

Along Plainfield Avenue, drivers will find “help wanted” signs at nearly every business, but the owners say they can’t get people to fill the roles.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. Between the COVID and trying to get employees, it’s just been a real struggle,” said Sam Pizzo, who owns Fred’s Italian Pizza along the corridor.

Pizzo says at full staff, they have about 31 employees. Following closures and limited capacities, they now have only 17 employees. Pizzo says many are part-time workers. 

“We can’t seem to get anybody. My opinion is they’re making too much money on unemployment,” Pizzo said. “Everyone has been kind of pitching in, picking up a little bit here and a little bit there, but it would be a lot easier if we could get some more employees in.” 

It’s an issue that owners have spoken about industrywide.

“It’s stressful, every day. We don’t know, we’re not sure if people are going to show up to work. I’ve had interviews that don’t show up,” said Gary Sloan, who is a district manager at Long John Silver’s near Alpine Avenue and Hillside Drive NW. 

Sloan says he was one of three employees working their lunch rush Tuesday afternoon. He says he typically supervises but had to help at the register because they were so short staffed.

Businesses are now offering incentives to help fill remaining vacancies. 

“We’re hiring all positions. If we hire you and you stay 30 days, you’ll get a $100 sign-on bonus. We’re hoping that’s going to put us over the edge of everyone else,” Sloan said. 

At McDonald’s, the incentives vary based on the franchise owner’s preference, but it can range from boosted wages to a signing bonus. Speedway gas station on Plainfield Avenue is offering $13 per hour in addition to a signing bonus for new assistant managers. Taco Bell has a sign offering free meals with every shift. U-Haul says they will pay employees the same day they work.

General RV in Wayland says they are also offering incentives, but not because their employees are not returning.

“The last year out of COVID, we’ve been extremely busy. We have a lot of new customers to the RV lifestyle. A lot of them are starting to recreate or use their free time in RVs,” said Sales Director Bruce Terveen at General RV.

Terveen says business has gotten so busy that they sold about 200 RVs last month. He says now they need to add more technicians to their team of more than 100 people to enhance customer experience. 

“These are people who may not have any specific skills currently and we are doing signing bonuses based on their experience level. Anywhere from $250 to $1,000 signing bonus paid directly, based on their experience,” Terveen said. 

Terveen says their hope is that people they hire now will work with them for years to come.

General RV plans to host a hiring event May 26 at the Hyatt Place on Metro Lane SW in Wyoming. The event will run from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. More information about careers and how to apply can be found on General RV Center’s website.

Other local businesses say they won’t offer bonuses at this time, but hope things will return to normal soon. 

“It has its advantages and disadvantages. Who’s to say they’re going to stick around? It’s all in the person who comes in and applies,” Pizzo said. “Just trying to get past it, get back to normal.”

Each incentive offer will vary based on location and restaurant. To learn more, call the business’ specific location or visit their respective websites.