Why many Chicago eateries have no open reservations
You may have noticed that it's hard to get reservations at some restaurants these days. But according to the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), that doesn't mean restaurants are on the rebound.
Why it matters: Restaurants are pushing the federal government to replenish aid due to ongoing pandemic losses. They point to:
- Inflation: The U.S Labor Department reported food prices rose 12.8% over the past year, including beef and veal (44%), grains (22%) and eggs (41%).
- Unemployment: Restaurant workers out of work are double the national unemployment average (8.4%).
- Sales: The lowest levels since June 2021.
What they're saying: "Restaurants are closer to permanently closing than they have ever been," Boka Group co-owner and IRC co-founder Kevin Boehm tells Axios.
The intrigue: With all the economic hardship, diners may now be wondering why they can't get a table.
- One reason? Restaurants aren't working at full capacity, according to the IRC. Staffing shortages and financial losses mean they are not staffing to fill every single table, which is why you may see empty tables in restaurants that say they are sold out.
- "Seating every single table would unfairly over-tax staff and make it difficult for restaurants to provide the experience they want," Boehm says.
Zoom out: Last week, a national report noted that restaurants were rebounding. But the IRC and local restaurants disagree, pointing to the massive losses they've incurred during the past two years.
- And reservations in Chicago are 45% lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to OpenTable.
What's next: The IRC yesterday delivered a letter to President Biden signed by over 10,000 restaurant owners, employees and suppliers asking to replenish federal funds for pandemic relief.
Editor's note: This story has corrected the name of the IRC to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, not the Illinois Restaurant Coalition.
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