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Will restaurants rebound and ever be the same again?

Posted at 10:21 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 08:53:38-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The pandemic has led to skyrocketing inflation rate. It's the highest it's been in four decades and that’s leading to higher prices on practically everything.

But despite increased inflation and a backed-up supply chain, at Price's Chef in Six Points, it's busy as always.

The pandemic shut them down for about a month when it first began. They later got back to some sense of normalcy at the end of 2020.

But now with more variants comes more change.

"As each wave goes up and the numbers steadily go up, we see our numbers go down financially,” said Alex Guerrero, the son of long-time owner, Luis. “Economically, we thought we'd be over this already but apparently not.”

But when it comes to a piece of Corpus Christi history - built in 1940 with pictures of famous customers on the wall - Alex and his family realize their diner is a bit different.

"I see our restaurant as like a niche,” Alex says. “It's a real diner feel. You come out and you feel like a family vibe. Kind of like 'Cheers', you know? And you're not going to get that by ordering something and watching tv at home.”

Yet at the same time, Alex says other restaurants who face stiff competition could wind up shutting their doors.

“But as far as restaurants themselves, it is going to be difficult for them to not only keep the workers but the customers coming,” consumer expert Lisa Miller says. A new survey reveals restaurants may be the hardest hit and not be the same again. Not only by the pandemic, Miller says, but also inflation.

Retailers, for instance, recently saw big gains with holiday sales skyrocketing up 8.4%. That's the strongest rate in 17 years. In comparison, Miller says, restaurant owners have a lot of work to do.

“As all of this unwinds for restaurants, restaurant operators they're going to be ready to pivot back to some to-go and delivery for those consumers not wanting to go out,” she told us.

But when it comes to the customers who want to go back out to restaurants, Miller says restaurant owners have a big order to serve up.

"They need to just make sure that they can deliver an exceptional experience,” she went on to say. “Why did they fall in love with your brand in the first place.”

We asked Miller if restaurant owners are going to have to offer some kind of incentive to bring customers back.

“Incentives have been fewer and far between,” Miller said. “Yes, some loyalty programs, if you sign up for emails and apps, you're getting those deals.”

Long-time customers like Wanda Arnold has been coming to Price’s Chef for nearly two decades. Her favorite dish, she tells us, is chicken and dumplings.

“I'd rather go out,” Arnold says. “Why is that? Look at the pandemic. We've been shut up all this time.”

Arnold says she's bored being inside and it’s time to venture out.

We asked Arnold if she’d rather go out than order in? “Yes,” she told us. “I've had enough. For two years now.”

And despite the pandemic and the variants and inflation, Alex and his family are getting ready for something big.

"We're already planning for the 100 year anniversary,” he told us, marking the century mark for the business.

100 years in Corpus Christi and they’re not looking to go anywhere anytime soon.

Wanda Arnold and her daughter-in-law enjoying lunch at Price's Chef