What are foodservice operators thinking right now? Price, for one. Guess what a pound of wings cost them.

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Around this time last year, New York City restaurants relied on outdoor seating to stay afloat. There was the anxiety of when the meals inside would resume. Now, a year later, with bars and restaurants fully open, we asked several restaurant operators, “What’s on your mind right now? “

“I’m thinking of Sunday brunches,” said Kecia Weaver of Pavilion on the Terrace. The New Brighton food hall reopened this year after eight years of renovations.

Weaver painted a picture of his vision from early July and explained, “I’m thinking of light entertainment and good food. We can add something a little heavier than eggs and bacon and toast, something for after church like gospel music, soothing music – not rock and roll – where people can hang out. mingle and simply enjoy communion.

Jody’s street installation will be gone by the end of the month. (Staten Island Advance / Pamela Silvestri)

Terence Haggerty of Jody’s Club Forest, 45, in West Brighton, said: “That’s a good question – what on my mind. Overall, it’s good to be back. I will definitely take my outdoor setup apart this week. Who really wants to sit on Forest Avenue when they can sit inside? It’s not worth it for me. It has become too much. “

Robert Chi of Loon Chuan in Tottenville said he was struggling to find delivery drivers and kitchen workers. Other than that, things are copacific compared to last year.

Restaurants

Richard Chi and his son Hudson at their Loon Chuan outpost at ShopRite of New Dorp. The Chi family continued to operate this location and the Charleston ShopRite location while the Tottenville restaurant was temporarily closed during the pandemic. (Staten Island Advance / Pamela Silvestri)

“’Normal’ has never felt so good,” Chi said. Like most other Chinese restaurant owners on Staten Island, he had temporarily closed the restaurant during the pandemic.

Chi added, “Business is picking up and I’m happy to see my clients again and enjoy meals there. But I can probably speak for other restaurateurs as well as myself when I say that the cost of products right now, like meat and vegetables, is extremely high. It was an unexpected challenge.

Chinese food

Loon Chuan in Tottenville (Courtesy Robert Chi)Robert Chi

SHORTAGES AND PRICE FLUCTUATIONS

With restaurants ordering for busy weekends and crowds, the food supply chain has been turned upside down. Fifteen of the 20 restaurateurs surveyed for this article looked specifically at the recent dramatic spikes in pork and chicken prices. A North Shore chef said he was paying $ 4.10 a pound for the wings when they cost $ 2.59 at their peak during Super Bowl season in recent years. A South Shore owner said pork butts just two months ago cost him $ 1.55 a pound. Now they are wholesaling for $ 3 a pound. He said the sausage has gone from $ 3.25 a pound in one month to $ 4.35 a pound now.

Other owners have reported that some items cost over 60% compared to last year at this time. And they say there are shortages too.

“Shorts from pre-COVID suppliers made up 1 to 3% of your ordered items,” said Peter Botros. He owns several Staten Island restaurants with varying levels of service, ranging from linen, fine dining at the Stone House in Clove Lakes Park, to the take-out format of Rustic Pizza and Pasteria in Grant City.

“Now, supplier replacements represent 10 to 30% of the items ordered. And at least once a week at one of the locations and the whole truck doesn’t show up, ”Botros said.

Pamela Silvestri

Rustic Pizza in Grant City (Staten Island Advance / Pamela Silvestri)Pamela Silvestri

Cristal Mejia from Yolpaqui Taqueria said: “It’s a tough time – prices on everything are going up. We are short of workers [so] we cannot operate at full capacity.

The owner of Port Richmond donated props to other residents of Staten Island. She said: “The good thing is that we have a very supportive community. If we have to raise the prices, we will – but not something crazy – and of course we will not sacrifice the quality of our food. It has to be a win-win for the restaurant and the customers. Without them our business cannot prosper!

Yolpaqui Taqueria in Port Richmond

Chicken Burrito at Yolpaqui in Port Richmond (Staten Island Advance / Victoria Priola)

DEMAND CHANGES

The intensification of “food and movie” activity is the talking point of Richie Holmes of Juicy Lucy’s in Ocean Breeze. He said the demand for his drive-ins was not what it was compared to last year. Even though he dropped prices per car from $ 45 to $ 10, his audience turned to live performances.

“The films are in my head. The concerts are sold out. People don’t go to see movies. So people clearly want to come out of the house to see living things, ”Holmes said.

The Restaurant Recovery Act is also difficult for him. He regrets not being one of the companies that have received funding.

“The government gave me a PPP loan. We spent this money in April and May. But the Restaurant Recovery Act funds have run out. It was terrible the way it was handled. This is money that we have earned. I kept the place open and kept people at work, ”said Holmes, who admitted the barbecue restaurant“ took a dip ”in 2020.

For those who can have an expanded dining room, there is certainly a boom in à la carte service.

“I think everyone is trying to make up for lost time. And they all try to celebrate everything. People book parties like crazy, ”said Alison Marchese, co-owner of Max’s Esca.

Pamela Silvestri

This is what last summer at Max’s Esca looked like with tables six feet apart. (Courtesy of Alison Marchese)Max’s Esca

CUSTOMER FEAR IS NOT A FACTOR

Shaw-naé Dixon recently opened Shaw-naé’s House in Stapleton. She said: “As a restaurant owner in a new season after the pandemic, I would like to know if customers are comfortable with old cooking practices in a new world. Do they want establishments to still enforce social distancing, dinner hours, contract tracing and door temperature controls? Would that make them more comfortable eating out with the ongoing battle against Covid 19?

She looks forward to the return of gatherings like the Open Streets program on Van Duzer Street. Beach and Van Duzer Street is closed on Saturdays during the summer from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. so neighborhood restaurants can display their edibles.

Dixon said, “We have a condensed summer menu with an amazing grill up front on Saturday. It has been a great marketing strategy and an introduction to the community.

Street dinner

The Open Streets program in West Brighton extends to Ho’Brah and The Kettle Black. Sally’s Southern also has outdoor seating on the sidewalk. (Staten Island Advance / Pamela Silvestri)

Tommy Casatelli from Ho’Brah in West Brighton said: “People have mostly been positive in response to the restaurants reopening. They feel safe. They feel happy. Those who don’t take precautions that make sense to them.

He said take-out and delivery continued to play a significant role in sales, but suffered a slight decline recently.

Casatelli said: “We just hope that things will stay the status quo and that the city continues to open up safely and happily.”

A survey of Staten Island residents who were reluctant to eat out around the same time last year dramatically changed their opinion. Ray Melnick from Grymes Hills has now said, “We’ve been to Marina Cafe, South Fin Grill, Stone House, Marie’s Gourmet in Silver Lake. We went to an outdoor concert, had a big barbecue and more. We are all fully vaccinated and we feel liberated. “

Pamela Silvestri is Editor-in-Chief of Advance Food. She can be reached at [email protected].


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