‘We're Trying to Survive': CT Restaurants Still Struggle Amid Rising Costs, Worker Shortages

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Connecticut restaurants are continuing to struggle through the pandemic, and with winter on the way to cut down outdoor dining options, the Connecticut Restaurant Association warns that some tough decisions may be ahead.

Scott Dolch, president and CEO of the association, said that while customer demand is back up, the worker shortage and rising costs associated with the supply chain continue to pressure the industry, which was always one with narrow profit margins.

"Proteins are up 57%, where they were a year ago, fryer oils up like 46%, just a year ago," Dolch said. "So what do you do to make that to keep that 4% to 6% margin, or even breakeven?"

The only solutions are to increase prices or take in more customers, according to Dolch. But that's a challenge with 25,000 open restaurant positions in Connecticut alone. That means customers should expect to see changes as restaurants weigh the options.

“These restaurateurs are working 18-20 hour days, like a lot of them telling me they've worked hard in the last three months than they've ever worked, because demands there, and they're trying to make up for loss," Dolch said.

Dolch noted that while some Connecticut restaurants saw some relief from the restaurant revitalization fund from the American Rescue Plan, he said there were thousands of eligible restaurants that did not get any of the aid. Until more money comes through, those business owners will have to find other ways to stay open, which could mean customers may see things like higher prices, different operating hours, changes to menus at their favorite spots.

"If in any way you can support them and the way you can go out and support your local business, we continue to ask for that and help them weather this storm weather this winter coming ahead," Dolch said.

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