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Chef Salazar: Restaurants 'barely surviving' amid price inflation

Restaurant food cooking kitchen
Posted at 2:43 PM, Oct 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-25 21:59:03-04

CINCINNATI — Chef Jose Salazar, an award-winner who owns three restaurants in the Cincinnati area, took to Instagram on Saturday to show why the prices on restaurant menus have grown over the last year.

With supply chain issues and shortages, Salazar posted to Instagram the prices of what common food products are priced today compared to what they were as recently as six months to a year ago. The difference is concerning, and Salazar says it could mean bankruptcy for local restaurants if inflation doesn't fall or the government doesn't intervene.

Many of the everyday products restaurants use are three times the price they were a year ago. Restaurants, which survive on thin margins as a nature of the business, are now facing tougher choices as inflation is exploding costs among common goods.

"Right now, a lot of restaurants are barely surviving," Salazar told WCPO 9 on Monday. "(They're) only still in business because we got help from the government with Paycheck Protection Program money. I can't speak to other restaurateurs, but we aren't turning a profit right now. We are using money we have left from PPP to sustain us."

The owner of Salazar, Mitas, and Goose and Elder said the story they've been told from suppliers is a lack of labor to get products shipped, delivered and driven from warehouses to customers. Shippers are passing the costs onto restaurants, who in turn have to gamble with how much of the cost they have to pass on to customers and how much of it they absorb.

"Look at to-go packaging," Salazar said. "If I say we are going to charge you an extra $5 for every to-go order, I don't know if it would fly. The steak that cost us $13-14 a pound is costing us $20 a pound today. I can't raise it that much. I can maybe get away with a 10-percent increase."

Salazar said Congress has several bills to help small businesses and restaurants in the pipeline, but so far none has gained traction. He said customers for the most part have been understanding of the price increases, and he hasn't heard complaints.

"We're thankful for the support," Salazar said. "Hopefully, things will level out, and we can lower prices again and get back to some level of normalcy. I'm not hearing anything positive right now. All of our purveyors are saying they don't see an end in sight. Maybe if people could persuade Congress to at least shed a light on what we are dealing with."

ProductPrice TodayPrice 12 months agoChangeChange by Percent
Fryer Oil$45$21$24114%
Chicken Wings per case$175$45$130288%
Take-Out Boxes$95$25$70280%

Source: Chef Jose Salazar

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