Jun 16, 2022 - Food and Drink

New restaurant openings delayed by supply chains and labor shortage

A 321 Coffee location with a coming soon sign in the window.
321 Coffee's under-construction location on Hillsborough Street. Photo: Lucille Sherman/Axios.

If you ask someone trying to open a new restaurant or shop when their grand opening will be, you'll most likely be met with exasperation. With supply chain issues and labor shortages, the truth is they'd probably just be guessing.

  • "I'm trying to not tie myself to any firm timelines because I've done that too many times now and just gotten disappointed," Lindsay Wrege, founder of 321 Coffee, a coffee shop that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, told Axios.
  • 321 Coffee is currently trying to open new shops in downtown Raleigh and downtown Durham.

What's happening: Restaurant spaces that used to take four to five months to complete are now sometimes taking up to nine months, Stacey Buescher, managing director of operations at Kane Realty, told Axios.

  • Buescher, who is helping several restaurant tenants navigate the buildout process, said most delays are due to either a shortage of trade workers or a lack of available parts critical to operations.
  • "There's a ton of development right now, so that means a lot of potential openings," Buescher said. "And everyone's trying to get the same things, like there is a huge delay on walk-in coolers right now."
  • Longleaf Swine, a barbecue restaurant coming to Edenton Street in downtown Raleigh, told the Triangle Business Journal that supply chain delays have turned its renovation of the old Oakwood Cafe building into "a nightmare." It's hoping to open in August.

Why it matters: This is another headache for an industry that has been hit hard by the pandemic and is also now navigating higher prices for food.

  • Wrege said that 321 Coffee set out to open its new Hillsborough Street location in May.
  • "Obviously that has not happened," Wrege said. "Fortunately, we're doing okay, but I recognize not everyone is in that situation."

Yes, but: Buescher said she believes supply chain issues are improving. "The feeling of momentum right now, in my opinion, is 10 times greater than even three months ago."

The big picture: Wrege said she hopes patrons will be patient with restaurants and coffee shops just opening.

  • Many of them are likely to be opening while still "working through labor kinks" and other unexpected delays.
  • "Maybe they got everything in except for a dishwasher, so they're going to be doing dishes by hand, which might slow things down."
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