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Omicron surge impacting San Diego restaurants, following national trend

Posted at 6:50 AM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 09:50:56-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Tommy Nguyen is just about ready to fill tables at his new Cross Street Chicken and Beer restaurant location in Del Mar.

But while he's eager to welcome guests to the new spot, Nguyen is also focusing on filling the booths at the original location in Kearny Mesa.

“It’s something that we understand, the season itself, it does tend to slow down within our industry. But we noticed within the past month and half or so, it’s actually gotten much worse,” said Nguyen, who owns Cross Street Chicken and Beer.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition surveyed more than 1,000 restaurants nationwide recently and found some startling data. One of the results: 58 percent of those businesses saw a decrease in their sales by more than half in December 2021 during the omicron variant surge.

“Yeah, we definitely noticed a huge impact with that,” Nguyen said.

It’s a mold Nguyen’s business fits.

“That was when we were starting to piece everything together. And, you know, it comes from the infectious rate of omicron, to affecting of people just being comfortable going out more so,” Nguien said. “And then also our staffing. Everyone is getting sick just on a weekly basis.”

That short staffing also impacting the hours of staying open to bring in hungry customers.

The owner of Trattoria Don Pietro, Pietro Busalacchi, opened his restaurant in Old Town during the thick of the pandemic in August 2020. He said while it’s tough to comparatively gauge their numbers due to shutdowns and staying open consistently, they’re in a similar boat.

“Day-of cancellations are through the roof, you know. So, that obviously factors into the sales aspect. And I think restaurants across the board are still dealing with that,” Busalacchi said. “The omicron is definitely throwing a wrench in a lot of the progress that we’ve made in the last, you know, four months, I think.”

These struggles with the surge continue to pile on in more ways than one.

“How do we navigate around the constant increase of our cost of goods on top of our lack of volume? That’s the biggest struggle,” Nguyen said.

Sales may have been slashed by the latest wave of COVID, but there’s hope among those in the industry.

“Restaurants are learning how to work with less. This is just another thing that restaurants are having to deal with as an industry,” Busalacchi said.

“It’s going to be an interesting year. But we’ve done it the past years, I’d say. I can’t believe we got through all of that,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said if they’re having issues with in-person dinning volume they might be moving back to a greater push on delivery orders to help with sales.