This Popular Chain Restaurant Is Down to Its Last Location, as of Oct. 9
The operator says things just haven't been the same since the COVID pandemic began.
It doesn't matter if they're small mom-and-pop shops or large-scale international operations: all businesses face challenges as they strive to maintain profitability. Unfortunately, the environment has become even more complicated in recent years as many operators struggle to recover from the COVID pandemic in the face of inflation and changes in customer preferences. As a result, many companies have chosen to downsize by closing physical stores, while some have had to go out of business entirely. But the effects are also real for smaller regional operators in the hospitality field. And now, one popular chain restaurant has announced it will soon be down to its last location. Read on to see which eatery is shrinking its footprint.
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Restaurants are struggling particularly hard in the current business climate.
From retail to travel, practically every industry has felt the pinch of the late-phase-pandemic business landscape in one way or another. But data shows that eating establishments have suffered particularly hard.
The temporary shutdowns and reduced capacity regulations during the early days of the pandemic understandably dealt a severe blow to restaurants. The results of a survey released on May 14, 2021, by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) found that at least 90,000 restaurants, bars, chain dining establishments, and local restaurants had closed or were in long-term hibernation.
While it's been difficult to nail down data on closures since then, ongoing labor shortages, high inflation, and supply chain issues have put a continued strain on the hospitality industry. The problems were also compounded when Congress failed to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund used for small business relief after its first round in May, The Washington Post reports.
"Just like we hear that the stock market is doing great and then we go to Main Street, and it's not so great, I feel the same way about the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] numbers," Erika Polmar, executive director of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, told The Washington Post in a June interview. "Maybe things look great on paper and maybe it looks like we're thriving, but when you get out there and you talk to the community, it's not good."
A popular regional restaurant chain is closing all but one location in the coming weeks.
Now, another chain is slimming down its operations due to the ongoing struggle. Central New York mini-chain Kirby's has announced it will close its location on Genesee Street in Fayetteville on October 9, Syracuse.com reports. This will leave the group with one remaining restaurant—branded as Kirby's Grill—located in the same town.
The latest shuttering further shrinks the chain's presence, which had four locations across the region at its height. Owner Richard Zdyb previously closed the restaurant's Liverpool, New York location in 2013 and another in Yorkville in September of 2018, local radio station Lite 98.7 reported.
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Staffing issues have proven difficult for the small chain since COVID first hit.
While the remaining Kirby's restaurant locations have continued to serve their classic American fare and are home to popular bars, operations have remained difficult even after lockdowns ended. Labor woes and other problems now familiar to dining establishments have taken their toll on the business, Zdyb says. He adds that even offering higher wages has not helped him hold on to employees.
"Prior to COVID, I never had a problem [keeping staff]," Zdyb told Syracuse.com. "Since then, it's another story."
Zdyb has been a fixture on the local food scene for years.
The latest closures mark the winnowing down of a business that has spanned decades in the area. The chain initially got its start as locations for national chain Mr. Steak in the early 1970s, which counted more than 300 locations at the time, Syracuse.com reports. Zdyb purchased the chain's area franchises in 1982 before breaking off from the company and renaming the restaurant group Kirby's.
In the years that followed, Zdyb branched off and launched other local dining establishments. He opened Zebb's burger restaurants—named after the pronunciation of his name—before selling off the mini-chain in 2007, per Syracuse.com. He also once owned a popular seafood restaurant called Hook, Line, and Sinker in Utica that he closed in October 2010, Lite 98.7 reports.
Even though the latest move to streamline Kirby's made sense from an operational standpoint, Zdyb admits he regrets having to make the call to consolidate. "This was a difficult decision but we have no choice," he told Syracuse.