Restaurateurs try different methods to make a profit amid record inflation

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochester area restaurants are trying to get creative to survive their latest economic challenge: Inflation.

After coronavirus lockdowns and supply chain crises, restaurants now wrestle with the same rising prices we all see at the supermarket but are trying different approaches to avoid hitting their customers with bigger tabs.

At Kainos restaurant in Rochester, and on its Facebook page, restaurant owner Jeffrey Scott is playing up his reduced prices as he tries to buck inflation by lowering the cost of most of his entrees, shrinking his profit margins and trying to get more customers in.

"I went through my entire menu, line by line, ingredient by ingredient,” he explained, "weighed everything out, priced everything out according to today’s prices to see if I have any windows to lower prices.”

At Rooney’s, owner Joe Squalli said it’s a struggle to keep prices from going up.

"We are absorbing some. Because the margins are shrinking. No doubt about it,” Squalli sighed.

As the industry gets squeezed by rising costs of, pretty much everything.

"To-go containers, we used to pay, like, $50 a case,” Squalli recalled. “Now it’s in the $90 range.”

“A case of lettuce for us was $38 a week and a half ago,” echoed Scott. “Now it’s $89."

Even favorites like Kainos’s flaming Saganaki costs $2 less after Scott replaced expensive brandy with vodka to fuel that fiery flair. Diners say they notice.

"We understood that was going to be costly even to pay for the gasoline to get here, right?” noted Kainos customer Martha Maikas-Foster. “So, do we pay attention to prices at restaurants,? Yes, yes we do. It makes a difference… How many times we go out, or if we go out at all."

“Now I am looking into going after some other expenses, normally before we ignored or we didn’t have time to,” Squalli added.

Scott said some items like Kainos’s Poseidon seafood extravaganza is more of a money loser he hopes to make up for with other things, and calamari is simply too expensive already to reduce the price at all.

But he hopes a focus on lower prices will bring in cost-conscious customers.

“You want to get more people through the door, and then they look and say‘ well, this is cheaper‘” he said, “and they can afford to go out and eat rather than sitting home and wondering if they can go out to eat."

Scott said his strategy is to get more people into his restaurant in his outdoor dining areas as the weather gets nicer but that, as frugal as he’s trying to be, his new lower prices can only last so long, so they will be temporary.