The owner of Little Joe's pizzeria in Chicago's southwest suburbs says that her restaurant was fortunate to make it through the COVID pandemic, but now the business is threatened instead by inflation and skyrocketing costs.
Sue Vazquez said she’s doing her best to keep her doors open, but admits it hasn’t been easy.
“It seems now a days people have cut back so much so you now they have to draw the line somewhere,” she said. “Groceries are up. Gases, everything.”
Vazquez runs the restaurant's locations in New Lenox and Tinley Park with her family. They’ve been in business for more than 63 years.
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“I was born the day my father and my godfather started the restaurant on 63rd Street, and there’s a lot of history growing up in that," she said. "31 years went by before they sold it and I met my husband in the kitchen some years later after growing up, and the rest is history."
Her business, like many others, made it through some difficult and challenging times over the years—surviving the 2008 recession and barely getting through the COVID pandemic.
Now, it is inflation, which has caused myriad issues across the U.S., that is dealing the restaurant yet another significant challenge.
“I’ve seen some of these bills come in that used to be like $2,500 for you know a week with one of our purveyors and its almost $5,000 now. It's crazy," she said.
According to the National Restaurant Association, 90,000 restaurant locations temporarily or permanently closed because of the pandemic. A recent survey conducted by the association found 91% of operators increased menu prices as a result of the higher costs associated with inflation, and 1-in-6 restaurants are adding fees or surcharges to checks.
“I feel like more is going out than coming in, and it has been rough,” she said.
While Vazquez said they have raised their prices, it's still not enough to cover their costs, and her daughter is now fundraising to keep their doors open.
The family is encouraging community members to come out and support all local restaurants as they navigate the post-COVID business landscape.