The owner of Little Joe’s pizzeria in Chicago’s southwest suburbs says his restaurant was lucky to weather the COVID pandemic, but now the business is instead threatened by inflation and soaring costs.
Sue Vazquez said she’s been doing her best to keep her doors open, but admits it hasn’t been easy.
“Now it seems like people have cut back on spending so much that now you have to draw the line somewhere,” she said. “Racing is up. Throttle, everything.
Vazquez manages the restaurant locations in New Lenox and Tinley Park with his family. They have been in business for over 63 years.
“I was born the day my dad and my godfather opened the restaurant on 63rd Street, and there’s a lot of history growing in there,” she said. “31 years passed before they sold it and I met my husband in the kitchen a few years later after growing up, and the rest is history.”
His company, like many others, has been through tough and difficult times over the years – surviving the 2008 recession and barely making it through the COVID pandemic.
Now it’s inflation, which has caused myriad problems across the United States, that presents the restaurant with another daunting challenge.
“I’ve seen some of these bills come in that were $2,500 for a week with one of our suppliers and are almost $5,000 now. It’s crazy,” she said.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 90,000 restaurants have temporarily or permanently closed due to the pandemic. A recent survey by the association found that 91% of operators have raised menu prices due to higher costs associated with inflation, and 1 in 6 restaurants are adding fees or surcharges to vouchers.
“I feel like there’s more going out than going in, and it’s been tough,” she said.
Although Vazquez said he raised his prices, it still isn’t enough to cover his costs, and his daughter is now fundraising to keep his doors open.
The family encourages community members to get out and support all local restaurants as they navigate the post-COVID business landscape.