Soaring inflation and rising minimum wage are forcing restaurants to adjust their menus

“It’s amazing what we pay for everything. I’m just doing the “keep afloat” thing: Restaurateur

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Restaurant owners facing rising costs — as they digest the provincial minimum wage hike — say they’ve had to decide whether or not to pass on some of their soaring costs to their customers.

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“I raised the price of everything actually at the start of this year,” said George Markakos, owner of Factory Girl on Danforth Ave. “And I still don’t have the margin that I would have if minimum wage had been left at $14 and food costs hadn’t gone bananas.

The minimum wage increased on January 1.

“It’s killer,” Markakos said of the pay rise. “It’s amazing what we pay for everything.”

“I’m just doing the ‘stay afloat’ thing and hope for better days,” he added.

But prices are rising every day for just about everything.

“Right now, every thing I buy has gone up,” said Markakos, who has been in business for 12 years.

“Every beer I buy, every wine I buy, everyone sent me a notice saying ‘We’re raising the price 5% or 6%'”

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A box of romaine lettuce that previously cost $42 in Markakos now costs $131.

“Extremely expensive. Like, crazy expensive,” he said.

A pack of eight steaks cost $64 a year ago. Now it costs $99.

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Bar Neon staff have tried to be creative with what they select for their menu and in their choice of vendors to try to minimize the impact on customers.

“Obviously price increases are going to happen. We have increased our prices by about 10%,” said Marnie Brandejs, events and marketing coordinator at Bar Neon.

She added that the increase in the minimum wage has been less significant because “we offer very competitive wages anyway. Our chefs are not $15 an hour.

The rise in other costs was more pronounced.

“We try to bear the brunt of it because we know this is a period that will improve and pass at some point,” Brandejs said.

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There has been a 31% increase in the price of wheat over the past month, mainly due to the war in Ukraine, a major global supplier.

This increase could affect the Bar Neon bakery, which also supplies other businesses.

“Our bread orders certainly took a bit of a hit, but at the end of the day, it’s just something you have to move forward with. You can’t increase the price of your bread by 44%,” Brandejs said.

About 13,000 restaurants have closed across the country since March 2020, according to Restaurants Canada.

Bar Neon and Factory Girl say they are encouraged by the returning customers.

“Everyone has been incredibly understanding and supportive,” Markakos said. “People walking in couldn’t be nicer.”

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