‘An ongoing battle’: RI restaurants forced to raise prices, sacrifice quality amid nationwide supply chain struggles

Business News

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When John Kirk first opened Masa Taqueria, a pop-up taco shop and catering company in Providence, his main goal was to make and serve great food.

But he’s had to make some adjustments since then, as he struggles to stay afloat due to nationwide supply shortages and delays.

“The last few months have just been the worst,” Kirk said. “It’s been impossible to find to-go containers. I’m having to substitute different brands for different items that I usually get … I have to sacrifice quality, which kind of pains me as a chef.”

Kirk said he’s had to raise his prices because the cost of the food products he buys has doubled, and in some cases, tripled.

“I was paying $1.79 for beef shoulders. That cost has shot up to over $4,” he said. “Just in the last two months, my cheese cost has increased from $57 a case to over $90 a case some weeks.”

Masa Taqueria calls Rock & Rye on Atwells Avenue home Thursday through Saturday, and it’s where Kirk primarily makes and serves his popular tacos.

Kirk said his customers have been less than enthused about the price hikes.

“There’s a lot more at stake than ‘we’re raising the prices because we’re greedy,'” Kirk explained. “Most restaurant owners are small business owners and they have one business and it’s their livelihood, their lifeblood.”

“You’ve got to do what you got to do to stay afloat,” he continued.

If any good has come from this situation, Kirk said that the restaurant industry has been working together.

“Before the pandemic, there was a lot of cutthroat attitude with a lot of vendors where it was like, ‘Oh, you’re getting this from this person? Why aren’t you getting it from me? I’ll drop this price,'” Kirk explained. “Now, there’s a lot more of, ‘I can’t get this, but this vendor might be able to.'”

The supply chain issues are impacting larger chains too, according to Bob Bacon, owner of Gregg’s Restaurants.

Bacon said the company has had trouble finding affordable chicken fingers and wings, as well as graham cracker crumbs for its famous desserts.

“It’s been an ongoing battle since last spring,” he said.

Bacon said it all came to a tipping point last week, when the restaurant started taking orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas. He said they’ve had trouble finding the ingredients necessary to make some of their signature dishes.

For example, Bacon said the cost of French fries has skyrocketed, so much so that Gregg’s is paying $40,000 more than they did last year. And when it comes to purchasing onion rings, Bacon said forget it.

Kirk hopes customers will keep these shortages and delays in mind when choosing to dine out.

“A lot of people, they rely on this business to get by and to provide for their families and everything,” Kirk said. “We’re all just trying to get paid and pay our bills so, you know, be nice.”

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