Chefs and restaurant proprietors say crime has hit their sector particularly hard, arguably at the worst time, as many restaurants are still trying to emerge from the pandemic. Restaurants have struggled to remain profitable amid a crush of issues: the rising price of ingredients, changing dining habits, debt obligations, and increased labor costs as some jurisdictions begin to phase out the tipped minimum wage or owners shell out more money to attract and maintain a stable crew. In cities from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., crime is adding to those costs, or adding to the stress of getting people back into dining rooms at pre-pandemic levels, reports the Washington Post. “It is a growing concern, and we’re hearing it nationwide,” said Sean Kennedy of the National Restaurant Association.
McDonald’s chief executive said crime and issues related to homelessness are impacting the chain’s 400 restaurants in the Chicago area, not to mention hindering efforts to attract executives to its Windy City headquarters. In April, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association asked its 800-plus members in San Francisco to select three priorities for 2023, and crime topped the list, said Laurie Thomas, the association’s director and the owner of two restaurants in the Bay Area. Second was the city’s large population of unhoused people. “The city has become too easy for people to use drugs and cause mayhem. It’s not safe out there, and we need to change that,” one restaurateur commented. San Francisco has been dealing with many of the same issues that face other major metropolitan areas: a downtown with steep declines in office occupancy rates; a police department with a shortage of officers; inflation, large budget deficits, and an economy that has led to layoffs. These issues can affect public perceptions as well as personal discretionary income, which in turn can affect traffic to dining rooms, Thomas said.