Thousands of people leaving restaurant industry

JR Michael has spent most of his life in the restaurant business.

He spent his summers as a teenager peeling potatoes in the kitchen at his uncle’s deli. Later he helped open the Applebee’s on Clark Road, where he worked 100 hours a week for $8 an hour.

Through those positions and a variety of other jobs across Sarasota County, he worked his way up to a job in the kitchen at Element: Steak. Seafood. Pasta. That’s where he was working in March 2020, when, suddenly COVID-19 hit and he was let go.

Michael had been thinking about leaving the restaurant industry for several years, even before the Element opportunity presented itself.

But after two decades in the industry of working for employers he felt like he didn’t care, Michael said he found himself at the end of his rope. And he’s far from the only one.


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