HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The owner of a longtime Henrico restaurant posted a “peek into the restaurant industry in 2021” on Facebook as food costs rise during a labor shortage.
Giuseppe Giambanco’s father started Roma Ristorante Italiano on Staples Mill Road in 1993. The 28-year-old has worked inside the restaurant first bussing tables when was 12-years-old.
A loyal following of customers helped keep the West End eatery alive during the pandemic. Now, Giambanco worked to navigate a rise in food costs and his patrons are noticing.
“Some of the customers are upset about prices going up. But it’s going to happen. Every restaurant is going to raise their prices because they have to. You’re not making any profit,” he explained.
On Sunday, the restauranteur posted a letter to his valued customers on Facebook detailing the struggles he and many other owners are facing right now.
Beef prices are up 47 percent, he wrote. Pork costs have doubled. Chicken breasts are up 40 percent while chicken wings have skyrocketed 100 percent higher than they were in years past. Shrimp and other seafood has risen more than 25 percent.
“I just want to let people know how restaurants owners are in incredible financial risks. It’s unpredictable,” Giambanco stated.
Dr. Jeff Smith, a supply chain expert at VCU’s School of Business, explained what is leading to higher food costs.
“We have a shortage of labor, we have a shortage of materials and it cost more to distribute so all of those pieces add up,” he said. “This is independent of politics. It’s largely just a function of the fact right now that COVID disrupted so much.”
Local farms no longer contribute as much to the food supply like in previous years, according to the expert.
“You’ve had a lot of local farmers for a long time, but they have slowly lost out to the major players,” Smith explained. “Tyson gets more and more of the market. Perdue gets more and more of the market.”
Production rates are down across the board and prices naturally rise when they can’t meet demand.
Dr. Smith warned that the surge in food costs may be here to stay.
“We are in this for the long haul - 2022, 2023 potentially,” he stated. “That’s scary and sad.”
Giambanco has not been forced to remove any food items because of food costs like other restaurant owners he knows.
“I don't think it would put us out of business, but I do think that we might have to change up our concept a little bit and do a different style if staffing gets any worse,” he said.
The post also addressed labor shortages, delivery fees and third-party apps that take profits away from restaurants.
“Your challenge today?” Giambanco wrote. “Write a 5-star review for a local business. Be nicer, more gracious, more patient. Cheer on your businesses. Their success is good for your community.”