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Charleston's food & bev industry on the road to recovery

The Charleston, South Carolina, food and beverage scene has been one of the most loved in the world. For the ninth year in a row Charleston was voted the No. 1 city in the United States.

Known for its unique touch in “food and bev,” the Holy City gives its customers a fun yet luxurious experience every time.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Charleston, like so many tourism-based cities, had to change the way it served the public during the crisis..

Restaurants had to shift their original goals and often find a new way to provide a great experience for customers and still maintain a safe dining environment.

“We took everything we had, and we threw it at the wall to see what would stick,” said Jeremiah Schenzel, one of the owners from Daps Breakfast and Imbibe. “‘No’ was never an option.”

Charleston restaurants were taking everything they had to find ways to bounce back and stay ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic and finding a path back to success.

Supply chain issues affect Charleston restaurants

Not only was the pandemic hurting how restaurants conducted business, but it also affected where they received their products. The supply chain was severely hampered by COVID-19 and products were hard for restaurants to get.

As a result of the lack of supply, items became more expensive at a time customers needed prices to stay the same as their own budgets were crunched due to COVID., The reality for restaurants was that fewer staff and supply chain issues forced prices to go up.

“We're expected to be supportive, paying people more so they can live better lives, but then we're supposed to be supportive of the guests and we're supposed to do all these things,” said Mark Bolchoz, culinary director of Indaco. “But, the guests still storm in and they still want their drinks as fast as they ever got their food as fast as they got them and they want it all to be the same price."

Bolchoz noted it’s not all people, but it’s still problematic.

“It's not everybody but there's a lot less across the board of understanding that we're all like working through,” Bolchoz said.

When these restaurants are out of supplies they need, they basically have to go on wild goose chases until they find it, and in this industry, time is money.

“There are constant shortages. One week it's calamari, the next it's Coca Cola.” - Marc Hudacsko, owner of Berkeleys

These restaurants are all experiencing different shortages that are affecting their businesses.

“Bacon is one of our biggest price increases,” said Schenzel from Daps. “The end game, we've seen almost a 220% increase in bacon price, which is great.”

These restaurants are not only working to better themselves, but they are collaborating with other restaurants to build success.

Daps Breakfast and Imbibe started a project called USS Friendship Plates. The idea was that everyone could help each other move products around, as well as working as a cross promotional opportunity.

“So basically I'm going to take something that you're really good at, and I'm going to put my own twist on it, and we're going to sell it here,” said Schenzel from Daps. “You're gonna advertise it for me, and I'm going to advertise it for you.”

This allowed restaurants to share goods and allowed customers to know what other places were open for services, as well as what specials were being offered.

COVID-19 has had some benefits for food and bev

Obviously no one wanted a pandemic to happen, but there have been some positive changes since the pandemic has taken off.

One positive aspect COVID-19 has had on the world is that it has proven that the hospitality industry is underpaid and overworked. It allowed people to value the hospitality industry more than ever before.

Some restaurants are doing even better than they were doing prior to the pandemic.

“We have broken almost every sales record we have ever had, and this place has been around for many years,” Bolchoz from Indaco said.

The pandemic has allowed restaurants to pay their employees more as well as employees not having to work extremely long hours every shift. COVID-19 has had a very positive influence on the increase in wages for restaurant workers.

“The average starting pay for a line cook has been $12-13 an hour, we chose to start our employees at $17,” Hudacsko from Berkeleys said. “There has been a shift away from the 60+ hour work week for chefs and managers. Those long hours used to be a badge of honor, I think that people are valuing their mental and physical health more now.”

The hospitality industry is able to treat and pay its employees better and help them develop a happier lifestyle as well as developing a bigger vision for their futures..

“I think it actually gave us an opportunity to step back and actually see a bigger picture that we're already looking at, and see exactly what our restaurant was and what it could be and operate as." - Nick Dowling, Daps Breakfast and Imbibe.

The pandemic allowed for restaurants to discover additional avenues for making money while being creative.

Restaurants had to really focus in and figure out where they wanted their priorities to stand.

Change can be good

Let's face it, change can be an uneasy experience and may cause anxiety for many people.

The pandemic forced a lot of change, and perhaps most obviously in the social environment.

And that really impacted restaurants and eateries.

“The thing we talk about all the time is the people who put their nose to the ground and just worked and figured it out, those are the ones who kind of survived during this pandemic,” said Schenzel from Daps.

And many of the changes within the food and beverage industry have been for the better.

“I think our world has changed, but change can be good,” said Hudacsko. “People and businesses who adapt will always be more successful.”

Much of the world had to adapt to a new day-to-day lifestyle has due to COVID-19, and restaurants were no different.

“Our saying during all of these has been ‘adapt or die,’ every week was different,” Dowling from Daps said. “Every week we were trying to do something different, because we had to adapt.”

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