Businesses around the country this year have been hit hard by record high gas prices, and Richmond Hill is no exception. Restaurants in particular have taken a blow, especially those that use extra gas for deliveries.
Scott Tredwell, owner of The Upper Crust Pizzeria, said that increasing gas prices have totally changed the way he runs his business.
"We get it from every angle," he said. "Our suppliers have raised costs, and so now we have to pass the buck." To offset higher fuel costs, Tredwell has had to increase delivery charges and raise some pizza prices. The cost of pizza ingredients always tends to be on the rise due to fluctuations in crop prices, but this year the added strain of rising fuel prices has made things especially difficult.
For restaurants like The Upper Crust that use gas for cooking as well as for transportation and deliveries, the impact has been immediate.
"Our gas bill at The Upper Crust has doubled in the past three months, even though our usage has remained the same," Tredwell said.
Pam Shores, co-owner of Southern Image Restaurant Florist and Catering, echoed Tredwell’s sentiments.
"Our business is down about 15 percent from a year ago, in both our restaurant and catering services," she said. "Before, we were spending about $400 a month on gas for catering and deliveries, but now it’s gone up to almost $1,200."
Shores said that she’s tried her best not to pass these costs on to her customers, but by this summer she could no longer avoid it. In June, Southern Image began charging a delivery fee.
"It’s because we’re now also paying a delivery fee to all of our suppliers," Shores said. "It’s a trickle down effect."
This trickle down effect is evident in changes that Richmond Hill consumers are making in their spending habits. More and more, people are cutting back on unnecessary expenses, including meals in restaurants.
"We’re definitely seeing fewer customers than last year," Tredwell said, and noted even those who have not given up their restaurant meals altogether are making adjustments to save on gas.
"People are stopping more on the way home from work to pick up a pizza instead of going back out again later on," he said.
Southern Image, whose catering business depends mainly on weddings and corporate events, has also seen marked changes over the past year.
While the number of weddings they cater has remained steady, Shores has noticed that a lot of couples are making an extra effort to save money and eliminate extras that they might have splurged on in past years.
"People are really cutting back on frivolous, fun spending," Shores said. "We’re still doing pretty good, but we’re selling a lot more of our basic catering menu items and fewer of the more expensive, fancier things."
As for the future, Richmond Hill restaurant owners are taking a wait-and-see approach.
"Until the economy improves and people start going out more, there’s not much to be done," said Treadwell.
In the meantime, everyone will need to continue tightening their belts. "We’re probably going to hiring fewer new employees than before," he said. "I’ve always tried to promote from within, but these days I can’t always afford the extra training."
Both Shores and Tredwell said that they are working harder in order to avoid having to cut back their employees.
Shores summed up the situation: "I’m just trying not to think about it. It’s kind of depressing, but everyone has to deal with it."