Hard to come by: Dawn Hayworth, day lead server at FiFi’s Lunchbox, restocks the supply of napkins in a prep area at the restaurant on Tuesday. Some restaurant supplies are hard to come by and if items are available the price has increased two to three times. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza
Hard to come by: Dawn Hayworth, day lead server at FiFi’s Lunchbox, restocks the supply of napkins in a prep area at the restaurant on Tuesday. Some restaurant supplies are hard to come by and if items are available the price has increased two to three times. Staff photo by Joseph C. Garza

If you’re having trouble finding your favorite foods on grocery store shelves — or simply troubled by how much inflation has raised their prices — imagine trying to run a restaurant, where food is your livelihood. Gaps in the supply chain and runaway prices have had some local restaurants scrambling to keep food on your table.

Local restaurant owners and managers report that everything from meat to beer to the simple to-go carton have been in short supply in recent weeks, and often much more expensive.

“We haven’t raised our prices, but in January we’re probably going to have to,” said Claudine Dollinger, co-owner of FiFi’s Lunch Box, who reported paying double or triple for some items — she had to go to Pepsi for to-go cups and shelled out six times what she usually spends.

 

Araceli Piloni, owner of Piloni’s Italian Restaurant, hasn’t been able to stock calamari for more than a month, and the prices of scallops have raised her eyebrows. “Even beer — we had to order it for the whole month,” contrary to ordinary practice, she said. “They have problems with their drivers.”

At The Saratoga, owner George Azar said, “Every week it’s something different.” Meat is up 30-40%, he said, and the hygienic gloves used in the kitchen are now going for $90-$100 a case, double the price of a mere year ago.

“We’ve been able to withstand not having some items,” he said. “We explain to our customers our problem, and they’ve been very understanding. Every restaurant has experienced issues with supplies. It’s not that it’s going to shut you down, but it is enough of a problem.”

Azar has had to raise prices on certain menu items, but again, “we explain to our customers they’ll go back to the regular price when things level out and when get back to somewhat normal.”

 

Sam Kigin, manager of Bar Bosco, said patrons at his eatery have also seen slight price increases — “not to make an extra dollar, it’s just meant to stay afloat.”

He added, “You go to the grocery store and see prices have gone up, and for us, it’s just as much. Just because you buy in bulk you don’t get any relief.”

The overseas supply chain has also been problematic. “We get a lot of products from Italy, so we’re having issues with wine and cheese.”

Ever Fernandez, owner/manager of Taco Tequila’s, said his establishment is not having issues with food, but has some difficulties securing to-go boxes. In September, however, it announced on Facebook it was only offering items from the lunch menu Monday through Saturday.

Several owners reported curtailing their hours and work schedules to confront the issue, but none were flashing any warning lights.

As Dollinger said, “We’re survivors — we’ll make it.”

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