Local restaurants grapple with price hikes, labor and food shortages
When Iris Hubbard opened 133 West at Kings Mountain, she and chef Evan Garr designed a menu with southern cuisine in mind.
Today, the duo is adjusting to a world of labor crisis, food shortages and rising prices.
Hubbard has only six employees left. She needs 10 to keep her restaurant running efficiently. With 40% of its workforce gone, Hubbard relies on a small team to run the front and back of the house.
“My guys have at least one meal a day to eat,” Hubbard said. “There are little things you need to do to motivate them. Sometimes I have to give them gas to run an errand.
Like many restaurant owners, Hubbard has increased the pay rate.
“You have to do this if you want to retain good, decent people,” Hubbard said.
Anna Buff, owner of the Lafayette Street Grill and Pub, said she was still feeling the impact of the labor shortage.
“We need servers and bartenders,” Buff said. “We could also use people to work evenings and weekends.”
Staff at 133 West believe job seekers are able to market their skills in a time and industry where workers are bringing in more income.
“People will go to McDonald’s and make $20 an hour, work 40 hours a week, and that job will probably be easier,” Garr said.
Many items are hard to find as restaurants across the country continue to deal with the lingering effects of the pandemic.
“You get to a point where you have to take it off the menu or you have to be creative and make a profit out of it,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said the staff had to change the menu from month to month, sometimes week to week, and believes the move has preserved the integrity of his business.
“When you go to a restaurant and they keep telling you they don’t have something, that doesn’t look good on the customer,” Hubbard said.
Garr said relying on local farmers was a good alternative, but farmers face a lack of help to cultivate the land and also struggle to keep up with ever-increasing price hikes in the food industry. .
“Ingredients are hard to come by and everything is bloated, so we have to pick our battles week by week,” Garr said. “They also struggle to move their products. We rely on certain grocery stores sometimes like Ingles, as well as Sam’s Club in Gastonia. We venture there at least once a week.”
Food isn’t the only thing that eats up a big chunk of the budget. Everything from paper goods to fryer oil has skyrocketed. Garr said the oil was $25 for 35 gallons. Now it’s $43 for the same amount.
“One week our suppliers have the products on hand, and the next week they’re out of stock,” Garr said. “Then you try to get it from another company, and the price is even more inflated. So what do you do? So instead of bringing it in and raising the price of the product, we take it out just off the menu for a week or two.
Buff said his restaurant offered wings for 65 cents every Wednesday, but they had to forfeit the special due to the high costs of running the restaurant.
“There was a bit of an increase in everything,” Buff said. “We did a price increase a few months ago.”
Hubbard said customers have been patient despite the ups and downs. It was overwhelming for Hubbard, who said she was moved when she thought of the dedication of her guests.
“We have the most understanding customers and the best repeat customers,” Hubbard said. “They are super supportive. We had to raise our prices, a few dollars here and there. They tell me they’re going to pay it because they want us to survive.
Latrice Williams can be reached at 704-669-3339 and email@example.com.