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East Texas restaurants continue to struggle through pandemic

Edgar Ordorica, the owner of Taqueria El Lugar preparing a meal for a customer.
Edgar Ordorica, the owner of Taqueria El Lugar preparing a meal for a customer.(KLTV)
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 5:58 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2022 at 6:45 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Restaurants across the state, including those in East Texas are having to be more innovative than ever to keep their doors open. According to the Texas Restaurant Association, more than 75 percent of operators do not have enough employees to support demand right now.

Hiring signs, notices about pricing and supply are posted at many restaurants in town, and it’s nothing new to restaurants. Edgar Ordorica is the owner of Tyler’s Taqueria El Lugar and said it’s been going on for the last few years during the pandemic, and that they’ve had to change some things in response.

“Closing on Saturdays; we used to be open on Saturdays. Just a short staff and the prices just going up, and a shortage on most of the materials we need– plates, spoons, forks, straws, all the necessities that we need to move on,” he said.

Kelsey Erickson Streufert with the Texas Restaurant Association said this isn’t just a pandemic problem.

“It was a problem we had before COVID that now was just taken to a whole other level. So we’ve got to do a better job as an industry recruiting talent, keeping talent, creating career pathways so people know this is not only a great industry to work in but it’s a great industry to really grow in and make a career,” she said.

Restaurants are becoming more innovative in ways they operate to keep business, including everything from price increases on menus to picking their best dishes to keep around.

“We’re seeing much more almost fluctuating prices, so the cost really is reflected in real time in what they’re charging. That’s really important, especially with meat, because those prices are so volatile right now,” she said. “Restaurants are paying double what they used to pay for chicken and beef and that obviously adds up really quickly.”

Ordorica has taken on the role of many just to help his staff.

“We don’t want to downsize and go cheaper on our quality of the beef or anything else, because I can’t do that to my customers,” Ordorica said. “If I’m eating my food I don’t want to downgrade to some cheaper quality beef. That’s one thing that we do take pride in. Unfortunately, like I said, we did have to raise our prices, but it’s something that we had to do in order for us to survive.”

The Texas Restaurant Association is also working hard in Washington to make a push for Congress to replenish the restaurant revitalization fund which could help about 12,000 small and local restaurants just in Texas according to the TRA.

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