KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For nearly two years the restaurant industry has been challenged by the pandemic.
Last month, several Kansas City restaurants were forced to shut down. Despite these setbacks, industry leaders are optimistic about 2022.
“The toughest was through late 2020 in early 2021 that’s when most restaurants closed, there were several restrictions, if you remember, for a while we couldn’t open,” said Bill Teel, Executive Director of the Greater Kansas Restaurant Association.
Teel said during the 2021 holiday season, some restaurants were operating on wait times — a stark contrast compared to previous years.
“We’re optimistic about 2022,” Teel said. “It’s been a tough couple (of) years for us, but we are we’re optimistic that the worst is behind us and we got a number of restaurants opening in 2022. We think it’ll be a good year.”
Several restaurants are also planning on opening their doors in 2022, including Lula’s Southern Cookhouse on Main Street.
Owner Bradley Gilmore said the restaurant opened the week before Thanksgiving and is currently operating on a month-to-month lease, with hopes of signing a permanent lease.
“People aren’t going to stop eating, COVID doesn’t seem like it’s going away and we have to find new ways to navigate the waters,” Gilmore said.
Due to labor shortages, Lula's is operating on limited hours Wednesday through Sunday evenings. They’ve also had to change their menu due to product shortages and are buying from more local vendors to avoid problems.
“If we had the staff we’d be open every day of the week,” Gilmore said.
The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association released the following statement on the number of restaurants forced to shut down due to the pandemic.
“While the National Restaurant Association estimates that 17% of restaurants nationwide closed during the height of the pandemic, Kansas City restaurants fared better. However, if 10% of our restaurants closed that would mean we still lost about 300 restaurants.”
Several restaurants are also looking forward to Restaurant Week and many will be extending their hours of operation, including Lula's.
“January and February are tough months for restaurants,” Gilmore said. “Restaurant Week gives us the boost we need.”
KC Restaurant week will kick off on Jan. 14.