New Jersey restaurants take it on the chin but stay up!

The restaurant industry, like most businesses here in New Jersey, has barely weathered the pandemic. More than 100 local restaurants in New Jersey closed forever in 2022. This does not include major restaurant closures for restaurant chains and franchises that have disappeared. The start of 2023 looked promising to stop the bleeding of closures and start accumulating what we lost.

The closure and loss of some of these restaurants was like losing a great friend. They had been around for years, some destination spots and some neighborhood restaurants where locals flocked every night. The restaurants that stayed open barely escaped the carnage and are now slowly starting to return to pre-pandemic numbers.

In a survey conducted by the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association in late August, it was noted that while business was up, costs were killing profits.

Here is the data:

  • In the new survey, 84% of operators said their total food and beverage costs were higher than they were in 2019 and many other expenses were up.
  • 59% of operators say their total occupancy costs are higher than in 2019
  • 74% of operators say their total utility costs are higher than in 2019
  • 93% of operators say their other operating expenses (supplies, G&A, etc.) are higher than in 2019

Ali Inay on Unsplash

Ali Inay on Unsplash

Fast forward to May and costs are higher than six months ago. Not leaving the choice to restaurateurs to increase the price of the foods offered on their menus. Rising costs for produce, seafood and meat have made the return of the pandemic an uphill battle. Even with the increase in prices, the surviving restaurants continue to offer exceptional dishes and serve their customers to the delight of those who frequent their establishments, albeit at a slightly higher cost.

Talking to some of my Jersey bosses, they all admit that running their business is like a heavyweight fight. They may lose a round or two, but they are there for the whole fight and to win.

Seeing multiple posts, I’m shocked at how many new restaurants are opening in 2023 here at The Garden State. These are upscale, casual, neighborhood venues. Some are new ventures from former owners of closed venues and others are the new wave of chefs testing the waters for the first time.

We love to dine here in New Jersey. I cherish good restaurants that offer good products and I support them when I can. I know times are tough, but if you can treat yourself and your family and friends to an evening of fine dining here in New Jersey, there’s still plenty to choose from. Have a great meal and good luck to my friends in the New Jersey restaurant industry.

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The above post reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. All opinions expressed are those of Big Joe.

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