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SMEs face major challenges: inflation and 18 hours a day

Inflation, Employment Market Hurting SMEs

MoneyWatch: Small business owners say inflation and the employment market are making it difficult to keep ups and downs

At its best, restaurant owners work with a thin margin. Today, rising costs make it even more difficult for independent eateries to survive. Jenna Peter Ciel, owner of Chillmark Tavern on Martha's Vineyard Island, Massachusetts, talked with CBS MoneyWatch about how she keeps her business. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Chilmark Tavern owner Jenna Petersiel repairs the connection to the kitchen equipment. Jenna Petersiel

How has this painfully high inflation affected your business? 

Jenna Petersiel: When it comes to inflation, the cost of goods for me on Martha's Vineyard has always been high. Therefore, it is very difficult to adjust the price to reflect the appropriate rate of return if it rises as it is now. 

I always say, "Oh, I'm charging too much money. It's worth charging now. "" For me, the biggest challenge around it is the perception of the expected customer. How much can we charge for food without people thinking they have been stripped?

It's difficult to raise the price of a menu, so can you maintain profitability given the rising costs?

We will not charge you enough here. Chillmark is a dry city, so we are BYOB. Most restaurants make all their profits with alcohol, and food is also lucky if it has a break-even point. We have to make money from food to cover all the costs. I find myself stuck in a place like "How high should I go until I'm no longer okay?"

This year's economic growth has slowed sharply and there is a risk of recession. How does it affect you?

I live in a state of constant horror. It's always "what are you worried about this week?"

As long as there is a risk of recession, my customer base seems to be a kind of proof of recession. However, we found that customers who used to come two or three times a week eat here a little less often. I don't know if it's diet-based because of age, COVID, or fear of recession. I don't ask them, but I want to.

COVID-19 is still on the market. Did something happen to the staff?

I expected it to be fully staffed and overstaffed. This is a miracle in this market. A little over a month later, Sous-chef and his cook suffered a terrible car accident, one of which actually died.

Immediately after the accident, we were closed for five days. We resumed overnight, and I tested positive for COVID, and all kitchen staff tested positive for COVID the next day. We were all ill and had another week off. This was the first COVID illness to occur in restaurants since the outbreak of COVID. 

I bought food, but I had perishable food, but I had to close it, but there was nothing we could do. .. We had to save as much as we could and throw away a lot of things, which feels terrible. We lost two weeks before July 4th, which is usually a tremendous week for us.  

Normally, there is a 24-hour cancellation policy, but it is said that "I cannot enter the room because the COVID test was positive." I don't know if they did, but I can't say they are lying.

Many restaurants say they are understaffed, but that doesn't matter to you. What is your secret?

For now, it's important for me to make sure that the kitchen staff are well paid and grateful. Sometimes it takes precedence over making sure the restaurant is actually making a profit. Because it's hard to see people working 16 hours a day in a hot kitchen at 110 degrees Celsius and making enough money. I don't want to be such a boss — to drive people to their edge.

Through word of mouth, I think it happened that I was a rewarding and kind employer. I'm always looking for a dishwasher. I think the rest of the time at the restaurant will be forever. I'm always looking for a dishwasher — it's not a fun job. 

So what is your biggest challenge right now?

Keep the cost of the item and above it. Utility costs are also rising, especially here on Martha's Vineyard. Electricians, plumbers and refrigerated repairs cost much more than before. 

The cost is rising, but I'm feeling sick so I haven't raised the price of the menu so much. Is it okay to pay $ 36 for a hamburger? It's kind of what it's worth for everything that goes into it. 

Are you the owner of a small business dealing with inflation and a slowdown? If so, CBS MoneyWatch wants to hear about your biggest challenges and how you are adapting your business. Please email [email protected]

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