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Report: New York restaurants still mired in struggle


(The Center Square) – New York’s restaurants endured a harsh business climate during the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, results from a new survey put out Wednesday by a trade organization show many still struggle.

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The New York State Restaurant Association poll found that 91% of members surveyed say they are less profitable than before the pandemic. Restauranteurs who say business conditions are worse than they were three months ago outnumber those who say they have improved by a more than 2-to-1 ratio (41% to 20%).

The vast majority believe it will take a while, if ever, for conditions to return to the prepandemic days. The poll found that 42% believe it’ll be more than a year before that happens, while 39% feel it will never happen.

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New York has taken some steps to help the struggling industry. New York legislators and Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul brought back alcohol-to-go sales for at least the next three years. The state has also implemented other programs to provide funding or tax relief for businesses that struggled during the pandemic.

“Despite the wide variety of actions taken to address these issues, the numbers are compelling in terms of the continued negative impact on the industry and our continued struggles,” Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of NYSRA, said in a statement.

The survey found that 88% have raised menu prices in recent months, and 73% changed items on their menus. More than three-quarters have cut hours, and nearly half have remained closed on days they would normally be open.

Like other businesses, inflation has taken a toll on restaurants. Among respondents, 96% say operating costs are higher than three years ago, while 86% say labor and utility costs have also gone up compared to 2019. Food and beverages prices also are up for 85% of those surveyed.

Fleischut said the numbers should inform the public of the struggles operators face.

“A busy Friday night is great, but don’t forget that the same restaurant may be closed for lunch or dinner service on days when they used to be open,” she said. “The recovery is still ongoing for most, and many will never get back the lost revenue from the worst part of the pandemic.”

The survey, conducted by the National Restaurant Association in conjunction with NYSRA, took place from July 14 to Aug. 5, with 267 New York operators participating.

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