Dec 16, 2022 - Food and Drink

Nearly twice as many Richmond restaurants closed this year

Illustration of a chef's toque deflating into a sad balloon.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Perch, Saison, Kitchen 64, Lady N'Awlins, Salt & Forge …

More than two-dozen local restaurants closed for good in 2022 in what should've been a comeback year for the industry.

  • But the tentacles of COVID, coupled with inflation, pushed some operators to the end. And restaurant owners tell Axios they're not out of the woods yet.

Why it matters: Richmond's diverse and award-winning dining scene was a pride of the city, regularly earning RVA national accolades.

  • And independent restaurants were such a powerful economic driver for the region that in fall 2019, the state launched a marketing campaign around local restaurants — with plans to kick it into high gear in 2020.

By the numbers: By the end of 2022, 25 independent Richmond restaurants will have closed, according to a tally by Richmond blogger Chad Williams culled from local news reports.

Meanwhile, new restaurants have opened every year, but at about half the rate as before the pandemic, per Williams' count.

What's happening: Labor and food costs have been up all year, making it more expensive than ever to run a restaurant. Meanwhile persistent industry staffing challenges have kept many local restaurants from fully returning to their pre-pandemic hours.

Of note: Richmond's food scene was oversaturated by some estimates heading into the pandemic. The highest concentration of restaurants were in the city, away from the population centers in the counties.

  • Hybrid and remote work has kept many of those commuters at home at least a couple of days a week.

The good news: Diners are back, and they're spending more money eating out around the holidays, according to the latest report from the National Restaurant Association.

Yes, but: Volume and overall spending isn't fully back to pre-pandemic numbers, according to the same report.

What we're watching: The number of butts in seats in local restaurants; they need to close out the year strong before heading into notoriously slow January and February.

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