Don’t judge a restaurant by its wait time: Omicron variant burns local eateries

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Omicron variant is making an already challenging year even harder for restaurants across the Cape Fear. Even the most successful shops in Wilmington say supply shortages, staffing issues, and price increases are burning local eateries.

Molly Kurnyn, co-owner of Cheesesmith says they close the restaurant Mondays to give staff a break. Though crowds are back, prices for basic supplies like to-go containers and food have gone up 25 percent.

“Everything. Cheese, bread. All the things we use in our food,” Kurnyn said.

Supply chain shortages also pushed back the brick and mortar’s opening.

She continued, “We literally were waiting to open to get refrigerators because they’re not manufacturing them.”

Kurnyn and her husband applied to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which according to NC Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Lynn Minges quickly ran dry last year.

“During that time, we saw about 2,500 restaurants in North Carolina receive funds,” Minges said. “But essentially there were about 6,000 that were eligible, that have not yet received funding.”

Congress will consider renewing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) this February. In the meantime, Kurnyn and her husband take on multiple shifts to make up for labor shortages. They hope customers will support local businesses more and complain about cost less.

“A lot of people come in and think that it’s insane there’s a 13 dollar grilled cheese,” the business owner explained. “But we just take a number of what it costs for us to make it, add in labor, and come up with this little sliver that’s left. And that’s what we keep. And as soon as a pipe breaks or our heat breaks, or whatever, that profit margin gets chipped away.”

Without grants, she worries hundreds of local restaurants could shut down by winter’s end. According to the National Restaurant Association, replenishing the RRF could save 1.6 million jobs.

Kurnyn hopes in spite of COVID-19 and the typical slowdown that comes with winter, people will step up and help out.

“It’s time for a beer and a grilled cheese,” she grinned. “Right now.”


Categories: Local, NC, New Hanover, News, Top Stories

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