For restaurant owners, the pandemic’s shutdown was just the first blow. As capacity has increased and demand has returned, labor shortages and, now, supply chain disruptions mean flexibility and creativity are key to survival.
At Dallas’ Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que and Home Cooking, brothers and co-owners Brent and Juan Reaves said the cost to operate has climbed significantly over the last several weeks.
“The meat, proteins are becoming ridiculous. We buy a St. Louis cut rib and it’s very hard to find right now. And if you find it, then the price is just astronomical,” Brent Reaves said.
“The prices have probably doubled in the last 4 or 5 weeks,” Juan Reaves said.
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“More than doubled,” his brother added.
It’s a problem being felt across the industry thanks to supply chain issues, inflation and the rising cost of imported goods.
Many restauranteurs put off passing those costs onto diners, who’ve recently returned, for as long as possible, but now many, like the Reaves, have no choice but to do so.
“We’re sharing the burden, right? We’re not doubling the cost of our products but we are passing on some of it because we have to,” Juan Reaves said.
It’s the same tough decision Valery Jean-Bart has had to make at Val’s Cheesecakes.
Amid the labor shortage, Jean-Bart had already temporarily closed his original location on Maple Avenue.
He’s also reduced his menu by about half thanks in part to a shortage of the glass jars in which he served desserts and a short supply of ingredients.
“We’ve had shortages of fruit, frozen fruit, peaches sometimes to make our peach cobbler cheesecake, which is a top seller. The prices of cream cheese goes up and down. We have to account for that as well,” Jean-Bart said.
Like the Reaves, Jean-Bart said he’s tried to compensate by adding new, more cost-efficient menu items. He also uses his company’s social media account to be as transparent as possible with those he serves.
“We’ve been so blessed to have a customer base that’s patient, that’s loyal, and most importantly understanding,” he said.
It’s a grace both businesses hope customers will continue to give as they weather a storm they fear is far from over.
“If you’re not flexible with this, if you can’t roll with the punches here, you’re not going to make it,” Juan Reaves said.
Jean-Bart said he hoped to reopen his Maple Avenue location by the end of the month if he can make a couple of hires.