NewsLocal News


Kansas City restaurateurs describe the risks involved with KC Restaurant Week

KC Restaurant Week.png
Posted at 4:00 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 14:59:13-05

KANSAS CITY, MO — As always, there's a lot of excitement tied to Kansas City Restaurant Week, which continues through Sunday, Jan. 23. But for the roughly 200 restaurants who choose to take part, the week involves a fair amount of risk too.

Herrera’s Tenderloin Grill is one of those spots.

"It's been here forever,” co-owner Angel Hernandez said. “And if you haven't tried a tenderloin, or a pig snoot, this is the place to come."

The Tenderloin Grill has been serving up sandwiches, including its famous pig snoot sandwich, since 1932. Hernandez is banking on diners coming out for restaurant week, even to try some of the less daring menu items.

"We're over-ordering to keep stuff on hand, the cheeseburgers, the tenderloin, the bread,” Hernandez said. “We have to."

The shelf life of extra bread, for example, isn't long. Hernandez calls it a risk worth taking.

"I don't know that there's any recipe or system, or whatever,” Hernandez said. “You just do what you got to do through the times right now."

Those times are tough for every participating restaurant, and their gambles are magnified by higher food costs.

"To go out and buy domestic mushrooms right now, at the beginning of the pandemic, a case cost $7-9,” Jane Zieha, owner of Blue Bird Bistro, said. “Right now, that same case is $21.00. We do organic cream. Organic cream has gone from $5 to $11 a half-gallon."

But Zieha says when you really think about it, it’s no different than every other day in the restaurant industry.

"I'm still gonna prep to be ready for people to come in the door,” Zieha said. “Then from there, we will have to make a decision what to do with the extra food. The menu that we're going to be having has more of the ability to prep more days in advance."

That's a move that allows the staff to be doing less prep work on the actual day of service, and therefore work a little less.

Also, when diners visit Blue Bird Bistro this week, they'll notice a big selection of items on the dinner menu. Zieha says that gives them more flexibility to re-purpose food.

Flexibility is something restaurateurs like Zieha and Hernandez always had, but have re-learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"No matter what happens during Restaurant Week, we will maneuver, we know we have to change the way we think to survive this," Zieha said.

"I agree 100 percent,” Hernandez said. “You have to be optimistic. You have to make the moves, the changes, the plans, to keep that going, especially today."

Staffing costs are another issue for restaurant owners right now. Zieha told KSHB 41 that she's worked more on the floor of her restaurant during the pandemic, covering shifts, than she has at any point in 20+ years of owning Blue Bird Bistro. Even with that, she says her payroll, because of overtime, is more now than it's ever been.