Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
Regular consumers may be worried about rising costs amid record-setting inflation, but Israel “Izz” Rivera, owner of The Shop Breakfast & Lunch in Albuquerque, said he’s seen it before.
As a restaurant owner who weathered the pandemic, Rivera said the past two years have been spent navigating fluctuating supply costs – something going on long before those costs reached grocery store shelves this year.
“Halfway through is when prices started going crazy,” Rivera said.
First, it was the cost of chicken, which went from $40 for a 40-pound case to $220. The restaurant now pays about $120 per case.
But it didn’t stop there.
Day-to-day supplies continued to increase in price, when they were in stock at all, and some goods, like paper to-go boxes, rose from $30 to $300.
Rivera said that prices have continued to fluctuate since that initial spike.
The restaurant is now spending an additional $10,000 each month just to operate compared to before the pandemic.
To offset the costs, Rivera said the menu has increased in price twice – something he held off from doing for the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic. The eatery’s current prices only went up between $1 and a few dollars per item, which he said brought menu prices in line with similar restaurants.
While some of the increases in the price of supplies The Shop is navigating may seem extreme, Rivera said they are still lower than they were during certain parts of the pandemic.
“Even the … quote-unquote inflation prices aren’t nearly as expensive as they were for the pandemic prices,” he said. “So (the prices) are coming back up, and it’s annoying but it’s something we’ve dealt with before so it’s not as scary.”
The issue now, he said, is learning how to operate the restaurant in the face of steady cost increases.
Rivera said he has learned how to keep lines of communication open with suppliers so he can gauge whether or not to buy an item in bulk if it drops in price.
“There’s a bunch of different ways to navigate it, but it’s still just like an extra hurdle that you have to go through,” he said.
He also said keeping an open dialogue with customers helped them understand why prices had to increase and ultimately, kept them happy.
Though Rivera said he is able to keep the restaurant running, fluctuating prices mean he’s not able to pay for as many bonuses or vacations for his staff members as he would like.
“We’re making OK money, like my staff only has to have one job and they’re fine,” he said. “But like, I want them to put money into a retirement account (or) I want them to get a new car.”
But for now, Rivera said inflation doesn’t seem to be too big of an issue for his restaurant, and customers are still coming in to spend their money just as they always have.
“People are still spending money, so it’s like, things are really expensive right now and if we go into a recession, then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but let’s just keep doing what we’re doing for now,” he said.