Jul 19, 2022 - Food and Drink

Higher costs have Ohio restaurants feeling the squeeze

Illustration of a piece of steak on a flat top grill in the shape of an upward trend line
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Ohio restaurant owners hoping to 86 their pandemic anxieties this year now have a new worry on the menu.

Driving the news: Restaurateurs say they've dealt with significant increases in operating costs thus far in 2022, per a poll conducted last month by the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Why it matters: Central Ohio, which saw a wave of restaurant closures during pandemic lockdowns, is now trying to stave off even more losses.

Takeaways from the recent poll:

📈Costs are up across the board: Restaurants are paying much more for food, supplies and labor than they were just six months ago.

💲Patrons bear the brunt: Nearly all restaurants have increased menu prices to offset these higher expenses, some by up to 15%.

🧑‍🍳Workers are still needed: Just 11% of restaurants report being fully staffed. Nearly half of respondents say they've closed areas or shortened hours because of these staffing shortages.

What they're saying: "[The poll] tells us that things are still pretty tough for restaurant operators and employees," John Barker, president and CEO of the restaurant association, tells Axios.

  • Some businesses are taking unusual steps, Barker says, like charging market price for non-seafood dishes like beef and chicken.

State of play: Restaurant reservations were on the rebound this spring, as we wrote in early June, but the trend tapered off since then.

  • Across Columbus this summer, most days have seen fewer reservations than on the same date in 2019, according to OpenTable data.
  • The loss of downtown traffic is still harming businesses, with Barker pointing toward the recent closure of Melt Bar and Grilled's Short North location which once was "the center of the universe" in that business district.

Yes, but: Americans trying to avoid expensive restaurant meals are also now feeling the pain at the grocery store.

💭 Tyler's thought bubble: Ohio Diner Journalism™ is a cliche on top of a cliche, but it occasionally proves constructive.

  • The menu of a Cleveland-area diner I visited last Sunday featured a sticker reading: "All menu prices up $1."

The bottom line: Restaurateurs and patrons alike are trying their best to navigate higher costs, making discounts like those featured in 614 Restaurant Week even more enticing.

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