ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – They were among some of the hardest hit businesses by the pandemic, and restaurants are still struggling to recover. Now, they’re grappling with inflation and labor shortages. On the other hand, the industry is seeing signs they could be turning a corner.
The last few years have been unlike any other for restaurant owners like Church Street Cafe’s Marie Coleman.
“I’m still recovering. I’m not where I was three years ago,” said Coleman. Coming out of the pandemic, the challenges continue.
“The cost of eggs. The cost of food in particular,” said Coleman.
“Elevated costs, supply chain disruptions, and lack of employees are still major problems plaguing the New Mexico restaurant industry,” said Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association.
According to a recent New Mexico Restaurant Association survey:
• 80% of restaurants increased menu prices, while 51% changed the food and beverage items that it offered on the menu
• 49% of restaurants reduced hours of operation on days that it is open, while 34% closed on days that it would normally be open
• 23% of operators say they postponed plans for expansion
• 23% of operators say they stopped operating at full capacity
• 23% of restaurants cut staffing levels, while 9% postponed plans for new hiring
• 6% of operators say they incorporated more technology into their restaurant
• 14% of operators say they eliminated third-party delivery
Church Street Cafe is just one of the restaurants that had to reduce hours because of staffing shortages. They are closed on Mondays and not open for breakfast every day like they used to be.
“Labor is still quite a big challenge. Hiring and training people and getting them back in,” said Coleman. With pandemic-era assistance programs, like extra SNAP benefits, ending, we asked if the industry expects workers to come back.
“Throughout everything, I’ve said, ‘ok, well that benefits ending, maybe we’ll get people back into the industry, and it just doesn’t seem to be happening,'” said Wight. However, the industry is hopeful with some restaurants just now starting to see more applicants.
“They’re not sure what to chalk that up to,” said Wight. “I had one restaurant tell me the other day that she had, like, five resumes in hand for one job opening, and that was the best she’s done in three years.”
Coleman is also hopeful the upcoming warm weather will bring more business in. “I think it’s getting better,” she said.
The New Mexico Restaurant Association is endorsing Senate Bill 121, which would give restaurants that didn’t benefit from the federal revitalization fund, a gross receipt tax holiday for four months.