Media Alert: Restaurant Recovery Update

November 4

2021

Austin, TX (November 4, 2021) – On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, Texas restaurant leaders met at The County Line on the Hill in Austin, Texas to inform the community of the state of recovery in the industry.

Kelsey Erickson Streufert, Director of Public Relations for the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA), he explained that the last few months have been particularly challenging for Texas restaurants, but with the holidays approaching, there is reason for hope and optimism.

Dr. Emily Williams Knight, Ed.D., President and CEO of TRA, shared that according to a recent survey of restaurant operators in Texas:

  • 96% pay more for food,
  • 64% pay more for occupancy or rent, and
  • 91% have much higher labor costs.

Dr. Knight also shared the latest information on wholesale food prices, which have risen dramatically over the past year. She indicated that:

  • A year ago, a beef tenderloin restaurant cost $ 100; today it’s $ 200.
  • Cooking oil cost $ 20 for five gallons, but now it’s $ 40.
  • The chicken, which is very difficult to find, has risen in price from $ 3 per pound to $ 6 per pound.
  • Flour has risen in price by 30%.
  • Pork increased by 27%.
  • Eggs have now increased by 40%.

“Even worse, the Delta variant has significantly reduced sales in canteens. 91% of our operators confirmed that they saw a decrease in traffic at dinner, “added Dr. Knight.

Dr. Knight then shared several reasons for optimism. She explained that the holiday season “is a critical time even in a good year for most restaurants, so our number one message to the public today is to have dinner outside. Please buy a gift voucher at the restaurant. ” Knight also explained that TRA continues to work for the recovery of the industry through efforts such as:

  • Recently secured $ 180 million to restore restaurants and hospitality in a Texas bill to allocate funds to the U.S. Emergency Plan Act; and
  • Partner with the Texas Workforce Commission to provide restaurant employees with free annual childcare benefits and free employee certification.

At the federal level, Dr. Knight indicated that TRA “continues[s] lobby in Congress to approve a common sense immigration reform that will help address our country’s labor and supply chain problems. She also explained the importance of Congress replenishing the restaurant revitalization fund: “There are currently 12,000 eligible restaurants that have applied for this federal funding, which, after 19 months of hardship, have been left in the dark without a single cent.”

Skeeter Miller, owner of The County Line, he explained that they had been in business for 46 years, survived the crash, the real estate crash in the 1980s and 9/11. Introducing his business, he explained: “I think I am most proud that our employee’s average duration is 37 years. You know, our employees are basically the lifeblood of our business. ”

Mr Miller explained that the last 19 months had brought a number of challenges, starting with the closure of the COVID-19 door, the “SNOVID ice storm” and then the Delta variant. Mr. Miller added: “We really felt like we were getting somewhere, and then came the option. We are overcoming that. “

Mr. Miller then described how the “supply chain crash” affected his business. He lifted the straw and lid and explained, “Just to give you an idea … we’re having trouble getting the straws and lids to cover the drinks. That’s how it got worse. Not only that, but you are just thinking about the stocks you can’t get, the ones you’re trying to sell, and you’re trying to be open, but all the sellers you’re buying from are raising their prices. You have fuel surcharges; you have all these additional fees that appear and affect the price. ”He added:“ Restaurants try to keep their costs as low as possible and not increase prices. I mean, this is a really hard time. “

Mr. Miller also stressed the importance of safe operating protocols and explained, “That’s why we keep our TRA promise to keep things safe, healthy and happy when you’re in our house here in the restaurant.” He then showed a copy of his COVID-19 manual.

“I’ve always said that there is no hope in our field of strategy,” Mr. Miller said, stopping to gather his emotions, “but the last 18 months have been terrible. So come out. Come see us. “

Rita Barragan, CEO of Asadas Grill, she explained that “she grew up in the restaurant business, she was basically born into it.” “I have worked from a buster, through a server, a dishwasher in the worst days, management and bartending and all that good stuff, until now I am the CEO of Asadas Grill,” she added.

“I will never forget March 2020, when my employees and I just watched TV and held our breath. They will not “shut us down”; they won’t lock us up. ”And then it happened, and we had to turn around so quickly.” She later added, “Without our employees, we wouldn’t be where we are today, without them.”

Ms Barragan also explained that when COVID-19 struck, not only did they lose their canteens, but people also canceled the action and demanded back their deposits. “They were terrified. We were afraid. We had to return the money while no money was coming in, and that was really hard for us. “

Ms Barragan added: “Fortunately, we continued and were able to open our second store in Asadas Grill, which we were already working on. [on] before COVID intervened. We said, ‘You know what? We have to keep going. Restaurants will survive, and we will survive this. ”Mrs. Barragan then explained that they had managed to open the Asadas Grill in March 2021.“ Since then, our biggest challenge has been to get people to the door. ”“ Last June, we felt we were we fell out of the water, we went and swam, and then suddenly BUM, hit Delta and we were back to the beginning. So it was definitely a roller coaster, up and down and up and down. “

Ms Barragan later indicated that TRA providing alcohol on the road was a great help. “This is how the community can help,” even for those customers who don’t feel good about coming to a restaurant.

Alex Eagle, CEO of Freebirds World Burrito, He said Freebirds runs 56 restaurants in Texas that employ more than a thousand people in the state.

“2020 was an extremely challenging year, but it turned out that 2021 will not be different for our industry. We are facing extreme labor shortages and rising food prices like we have never seen before. Our average restaurant in Freebirds employs 18 people and we had to learn how to fight but continue to run with 15 people. ”He later added:“ It was a very difficult journey and we thank our guests for their patience as we struggled with fewer employees than we ever had to run a restaurant. “

Mr Eagle added that he was facing rising food costs that “are simply not sustainable for the restaurant industry.” He then explained that the large increase in construction costs is making it difficult for Freebirds to expand and hire more people in Texas.

Mr Eagle also discussed some of the steps Freebirds is taking to address labor shortages.

“[W]We are already paying extremely competitively, “he explained before adding,” we are focusing on a longer-term strategy. We improve the way we select employees and ensure that our employees are in line with our core values ​​as an organization. We are investing more in training and development – and leadership development in particular – than ever before. We are also improving working conditions for our employees. We are very, very focused on eliminating those jobs that no one wants to do, such as washing dishes wherever possible. And we also invest in technologies that enhance both the tribal experience, as we call it for our employees, and the experience of our guests. ”

At the end of his comments, Mr. Eagle added: “Texas is a great country for the restaurant industry. We value business people in Texas and we certainly respect great food. We let our restaurants do what they do best – create jobs, tax revenue and give people a lot of second opportunities and second chances. And we do it while creating great experiences for family and friends. ”

Dr. Knight finished the presentation and added, “I think you see the emotions today. Our operators and employees are tired. They fed a pandemic, they ate an ice storm. And I think as a community right now and as Texans, we need to unite and lean on and help these brands. There is no way for many of them to survive through the winter months without buying gift cards, going to their terraces, taking them with them and actually investing in them. ”

Dr. Knight opened it for inquiries from the media present.

  • In response to a question about the number of closed restaurants, Dr. Knight said an estimated 9,000 Texas restaurants have closed due to the pandemic. “Unfortunately, about eight out of ten are small businesses.” “Without further relief from the federal government, and with this drop in sales and skyrocketing prices, that number could accelerate in the winter months.” Dr. Knight added: “And remember, before the pandemic, we had 1.3 million employees, which was the second largest private employer. We made $ 70 billion in sales in Texas alone, with nearly 50,000 free-standing units. And so we are a very important producer for the Texas economy, so we need to lean on and help this transition to recovery. “
  • In response to a question about staffing and vacations, Dr. Knight explained that there is a shortage of staff in every part of the food supply chain, from production facilities to truck drivers to restaurant staff. She also said that restaurants are trying to streamline technology but cannot lose the customer experience. She added that gift cards are a great way to support restaurants and their employees.
  • In response to the question of where the workers of this industry have gone, Dr. Knight indicated that the shortage was before the pandemic. She also stressed the importance of childcare, so TRA partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to provide free childcare benefits. She also said that the restaurant industry is not alone in facing a shortage of staff. Dr. Knight added that wages in the sector have almost doubled this year than in other sectors, but that has not brought labor levels back.
  • In response to another question concerning the staff of Dr. Knight said the Texas restaurant industry currently has about 170,000 jobs, with 91% of operators saying they do not have enough staff to reach 100% capacity. At the national level, we have about 1.1 million job openings.
  • In response to a question about wages, Dr. Knight said workers are now paid well above the minimum wage, with workers receiving $ 15-20 in many basic positions.

David Berry

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