Customers may have to pay higher prices at restaurants post-pandemic

Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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A cook preparing food in the kitchen at Fry Daddy's in Louisville.
A cook preparing food in the kitchen at Fry Daddy's in Louisville.(WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In the service industry, “back in business” does not mean “back to normal.” Customers will probably have to wait to re-live the pre-COVID dining experience even when restrictions are lifted, two Louisville restaurant owners said.

“We’re already explaining why we don’t have enough servers or bartenders or cooks, because all the restaurants are opening and people are not back at work,” Noosh Nosh owner Anoosh Shariat said.

Shariat said he may soon also have to also explain changes to his menu as his costs skyrocket. He said payroll costs to attract and retain workers during COVID-19 restrictions jumped 15%.

Disruptions to the supply chain pushed the cost of paper products up 20 to 30 percent, and beef and pork are now up 25 to 40 percent.

”What we’re doing is trying to save in other places,” Shariat said. “Do more with the labor that we have, trying to buy better, (and) really pinch pennies where ever we can.”

The restaurant owners, however, said they are limited in their options because profit margins are already tight.

Restaurants in many parts of the country are trying to get back to normal, but some are worried that the competition for goods will drive prices higher. Smaller restaurants lack the buying power to command lower prices from suppliers.

At Fry Daddy’s on Brownsboro Road, chicken wings, a menu staple, jumped from $70 dollars a case before COVID to $125. Owners Troy King and Selena Johnson said optimism is all they have to work with.

”When I purchase the chicken wings, I instantly say I’m raising the price,” King said. “But then when I get to my operation and start thinking about my customers, I get a little bit more optimistic and say, ‘Maybe the price will go down, maybe the price will go down.’”

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