Austin restaurants rebound despite staff shortages and inflation

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the weather warms, Austin’s restaurants are bouncing back.

At Bar Peached, general manager Patrick Courson said seats were filling up fast.

“Every Friday and Saturday is non-stop action,” he said. “Tonight alone we have nearly 14 separate major parties all wanting to come in.”

It’s quite a contrast to this time two years ago, as many local businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“Restaurants have been on an incredible roller coaster,” said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, public affairs manager for the Texas Restaurant Association. “We unfortunately lost approximately 9,000 restaurants across the state.”

With staff shortages still an issue, most remaining restaurants are learning to do more with less.

“Maybe they’re not open seven days a week like before,” Streufert said. “Maybe they’re not open for lunch service like they used to be.”

Food prices are also climbing, seeing their biggest increase since 1975.

“A pretty steep increase in the cost of doing business over the whole period,” Courson said. “Not just the cost of goods, but from a food perspective, the cost of goods in the world of alcohol as well.”

Yet, while business is booming, the future looks bright for spots such as Bar Peached.

“Between people wanting to go out, giving you their stuff, and the weather turning, I think restaurants are now in a position to really take advantage of that,” Courson concluded.

According to research by OpenTable, at this year’s South by Southwest, the number of seated diners increased by 45% compared to the pre-pandemic festival in 2019.

This data also indicated that in the 10 days leading up to SXSW, the volume of seated diners increased by 14% compared to the same period in 2019.

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