St. John’s restaurant owners struggling with rising cost of business after 2 years under a pandemic

Restaurant owners in St. John’s say there’s new challenges after making it through more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images)

The restaurant industry may be slowly returning to normal, after more than two years under the COVID-19 pandemic, but business owners – squeezed by lockdowns and capacity restrictions – now find the rapidly rising costs of supplies eating away at their bottom line.

Amy Anthony, owner of the Nook and Cannery in St. John’s, said Monday one staple in particular stands out in the industry.

“The usual suspects keep rising in cost but I think the biggest one for most of us over the past couple of months is the canola oil prices,” Anthony said.

“This time last year we were looking at under $ 20 for 16 liters of it and now we’re at $ 54.97 I believe.”

Michelle LeBlanc, co-owner of Chinched Restaurant and Deli in St. John’s, says cooking oil and propane are two expenses that have risen faster than others – but costs have risen for everything, which means she’s had to raise her business’s prices.

“We haven’t had many price increases before now and unfortunately have had to increase everything sort of on a scale over the last four to six months,” she said.

“It all cuts into the bottom line.”

Michelle LeBlanc, co-owner of Chinched Restaurant and Deli, says the rising cost of supply is cutting into her business’s bottom line. (Ted Dillon / CBC)

Chinched, said LeBlanc, is in the unique position of having a deli that’s separate from the restaurant – it sells product wholesale to other restaurants. But even on the deli side, LeBlanc said, the cost of packaging is rising as well, meaning the prices she charges her customers rise, and in turn the prices her customers charge their own clientele go up.

“Unfortunately it’s all feeding down into the bottom line of the purchaser. We’re all feeling it at home as much as we are at work,” she said.

Anthony, whose restaurant has been open for only about a year, said she has had to cut corners on the labor front because she has been unable to get government support.

She said she has been trying to get creative but has had to shuffle things around and come up with a set menu for the summer so the costs are known ahead of time.

“Now with the farming season approaching we’ll hopefully be able to benefit more from good, local suppliers and not have to pay out too much for anything we’re having to get from places like Costco.”

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